Care Ministry: Stroke Risk Factors You Can Control, Treat, and Improve

Abstracted by Sheila Kun RN, BA, BSN, MS.

The most often asked question with most medical conditions is: “How can I prevent this problem?” On the topic of stroke prevention, from the American Stroke Association, the following risk factors are depicted for your reference. 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading cause of stroke and the most significant controllable risk factor.  


The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damages the cardiovascular system and paves the way for a stroke. The use of birth control pills combined with cigarette smoking can also greatly increase the risk of stroke. 

Smoking may double stroke risk for African Americans

The risk of stroke more than doubles for African Americans who smoke compared to their nonsmoking peers, according to a new study. The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found stroke risk was 2.5 times higher for current smokers compared with non-smokers. The number of daily cigarettes made a difference. The risk factor increased 2.3 times for people who smoked one to 19 cigarettes a day and 2.8 times for those who smoked more than 20.


If you have Type 1 or 2 diabetes, control your blood sugar. Diabetes mellitus is an independent risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight — increasing their risk even more. While diabetes is treatable, the presence of the disease still increases your risk of stroke.  


Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Those high in sodium (salt) can increase blood pressure. And those with high calories can lead to obesity. But a diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may reduce the risk of stroke. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations outlines a healthy diet based on these recommendations. 

These diets helped women with diabetes cut heart attack and stroke risk

Diabetes afflicts one-quarter of Americans 65 and older. An estimated 68% of these patients will die of heart disease, and 16% will die of stroke. Read how eating patterns similar to the Mediterranean diet and the blood pressure-lowering DASH may help older women with Type 2 diabetes ward off heart attacks, strokes, and related problems.

Physical Inactivity

Physical inactivity can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, overweight/obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. Aim for being active at least 150 minutes a week, but if you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more and sit less. Learn about the new AHA Physical Activity recommendations. 


Excess body weight and obesity are linked with an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can make a significant difference in your risks. Even if weight control has been a lifelong challenge, start by taking small steps today to manage your weight and lower risks.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: Examine the risk factors and see if it applies to you.

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