Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability. Discover your risk factors for stroke and manage them with the help of UNM Health.
Are You at Risk for a Stroke?
Your genes, health and lifestyle affect your chances of having a stroke. Talk to your primary care provider if you experience two or more of the following risk factors:
- Man over age 45 or woman over 55
- Family history of heart attack before age 55 for men or age 65 for women
- Personal history of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, abnormal heartbeat and/or diabetes
- African American, Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native heritage
- Daily tobacco exposure
- High blood cholesterol (240 mg or higher)
- High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher)
- Overweight or obese
- Less than 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week
Lower Your Stroke Risk
Work with your doctor to lower your stroke risk by changing your lifestyle and treating these risk factors:
- High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. It damages the heart, brain and other organs. Use diet and exercise or blood pressure medications to lower or control it.
- Cigarette smoking damages the cardiovascular system. Call the QUIT line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free coaching and quit aids.
- Alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure if you have more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women.
- Diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels, leading to blood clots, due to the high blood sugar. Get help managing your diabetes through UNM Health's diabetes education program.
- Obesity puts stress on the body.
- Little physical activity is considered less than 30 minutes of daily physical activity. An active lifestyle can lead to a healthy life.
- Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat and can cause blood to pool and clot, causing a stroke. Take blood clot medications to lower your chance of clots, if necessary.
- Abusing narcotics such as cocaine and methamphetamine increase your heart rate and blood pressure, causing damage to the arteries in the brain and increasing your risk of hemorrhagic stroke. If you need help to quit taking drugs, contact the UNM Behavioral Health Addiction and Substance Abuse Program.
- Unhealthy diet, including foods high in trans fat and saturated fat, can raise your blood cholesterol levels. Too much salt can increase blood pressure, and a lot of sugar can contribute to being overweight. Manage your cholesterol intake by following the healthy plate [PDF] model for your meals and taking any cholesterol medications prescribed by your doctor.
Take Your Medications
Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat and control some of the conditions that contribute to having a stroke. Follow these medication guidelines:
- Call your doctor or nurse if you have any medication-related side effects.
- Keep taking your medications even after you feel better.
- Use a pill box to help organize your medications.
- Tell your doctor if you are taking any herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications.
- Call for medication refills two weeks before you run out.