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Monday, July 14, 2008

Am I at risk of having a stroke?

Many factors can increase your risk of a stroke. A number of these factors can also increase your chances of having a heart attack.
They include:
1. Family history. Your risk of stroke is slightly greater if one of your parents or a brother or sister has had a stroke or TIA.
2. Age. Your risk of stroke increases as you get older.
3. Sex. Stroke affects men and women about equally, but women are more likely to die of stroke than are men.
4. Race. Indians are at greater risk of stroke than are people of other races. This is partly due to a higher prevalence of diabetes and hypertension.
5. High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is a risk factor for both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. It can weaken and damage blood vessels in and around your brain, leaving them vulnerable to atherosclerosis and hemorrhage.
6. Undesirable levels of blood cholesterol. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, may increase your risk of atherosclerosis. In excess, LDLs and other materials build up on the lining of artery walls, where they may harden into plaques. High levels of triglycerides, a blood fat, also may increase your risk of atherosclerosis. In contrast, high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, reduce your risk of atherosclerosis by escorting cholesterol out of your body through your liver.
7. Cigarette smoking. Smokers have a much higher risk of stroke than do nonsmokers. Smoking contributes to plaques in your arteries. Nicotine makes your heart work harder by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces oxygen in your blood, decreasing the amount of oxygen delivered to the walls of your arteries and your tissues, including the tissues in your brain.
8. Diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for stroke. When you have diabetes, your body not only can't handle glucose appropriately, but it also can't process fats efficiently, and you're at greater risk of high blood pressure. These diabetes-related effects increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis. Diabetes also interferes with your body's ability to break down blood clots, increasing your risk of ischemic stroke.
9. Obesity. Being overweight increases your chance of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis and diabetes - all of which increase your risk of a stroke.
10. Cardiovascular disease. Several cardiovascular diseases can increase your risk of a stroke, including congestive heart failure, a previous heart attack, an infection of a heart valve (endocarditis), a particular type of abnormal heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation), aortic or mitral valve disease, valve replacement, or a hole in the upper chambers of the heart known as patent foramen ovale. Atrial fibrillation is the most common condition associated with strokes caused by embolic clots. In addition, atherosclerosis in blood vessels near your heart may indicate that you have atherosclerosis in other blood vessels - including those in and around your brain.
11. Previous stroke or TIA. If you've already had a stroke, your risk of having another one increases. In addition, people who have had a TIA are much more likely to have a stroke as are those who haven't had a TIA.
12. Elevated homocysteine level. This amino acid, a building block of proteins, occurs naturally in your blood. But people with elevated levels of homocysteine have a higher risk of heart and blood vessel damage.
Other factors that can increase your risk of stroke include heavy or binge drinking, the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine, and uncontrolled stress.

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