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Lowering Your Stroke Risk

Risk factors are things that make you more likely to have a health problem,” says family medicine physician, Sandra Fahmy, M.D. “You are at risk for a stroke if you have high blood pressure, but your risk is even higher if you have high blood pressure and are over the age of 50.” Use the quiz to the right, from the American Stroke Association, to learn your risk factors for stroke. The more “yes” answers, the higher your potential risk for stroke. 

“By learning your risk factors, you and your doctor can devise a plan to reduce your chances of having a stroke,” says Dr. Fahmy. “There’s a lot you can do to help prevent stroke. Watching what you eat and being physically active are high on the list.”

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the number one cause of adult disability. The most effective treatment for stroke is to prevent it from happening in the first place. High blood pressure is the top risk factor for stroke. Have your blood pressure checked regularly, advises Dr. Fahmy, and follow your doctor’s recommendations for medication and lifestyle changes. If you smoke, get help to quit.

“The consequences of stroke can be severe,” says Dr. Fahmy. “Preventative measures become the main line of defense against the conditions that invite stroke. Together, you and your doctor can form a treatment plan to reduce your risk of stroke.”

  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Do you have high cholesterol?
  • Do you have atrial fibrillation?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Are you African-American?
  • Are you older than 50?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you walk or exercise fewer than three times a week?
  • Do you often eat greasy, fried or salty foods?
  • Do you have more than two alcoholic drinks a day?
  • Have your mother, father, sister, brother or grandparent had a stroke; or your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55; or your mother or sister had a heart attack before age 65?
  • Have you been told that you have carotid artery disease, or have had a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack); or have disease of the leg arteries, a high red blood cell count, or sickle cell anemia?

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