Care Ministry: Stroke Risk Factors You Can Control, Treat, and Improve (Part 2)

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

The American Stroke Association has a detailed discussion of risk factors for stroke. Last week, we went over some major risk factors. This week, we complete the discussion with the following situations that might put you at risk for stroke. 

High Blood Cholesterol

Large amounts of cholesterol in the blood can build up and cause blood clots — leading to a stroke. Also, it appears that low HDL (“good”) cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke in men, but more data is needed to verify if this is true for women as well.  

Carotid Artery Disease

The carotid arteries in your neck supply blood to your brain. A carotid artery narrowed by fatty deposits from atherosclerosis (plaque build-ups in artery walls) may become blocked by a blood clot, causing a stroke.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is the narrowing of blood vessels carrying blood to leg and arm muscles. It’s caused by fatty buildup of plaque in artery walls. People with PAD have a higher risk of carotid artery disease, which raises their risk of stroke.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib (a heart rhythm disorder) clot can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. If you have AFib, know your stroke risks and get treatment to keep your risks low. Also, sleep apnea can be linked to AFib and is associated with increased stroke risks.

Other Heart Disease

People who have coronary heart disease or heart failure are at higher risk of stroke than people who have healthy hearts. Dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart), heart valve disease and some types of congenital heart defects can also raise the risk of stroke. Work with your health care provider to manage these related conditions.

Sickle Cell Disease (Sickle Cell Anemia)

Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that mainly affects African American and Hispanic children. It causes “sickled” red blood cells, which are less able to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs. These cells tend to stick to blood vessel walls, which can block arteries to the brain and cause a stroke. Although you can’t control whether you have sickle cell disease (SCD), you can work with your health care professional to prevent flare-ups and manage them carefully to reduce your risk of having a stroke. 

High Blood Pressure is the No. 1 Controllable Risk Factor for Stroke

Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range (under 120/80)

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

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