An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain becomes blocked, denying that part of the brain the necessary oxygen it needs to survive. Without oxygen, the neural pathways in the affected area of the brain begin to die, resulting in immediate stroke symptoms and long-term post-stroke effects. Strokes can happen to anybody at any age, even babies. However, there are certain traits, conditions, and lifestyle factors that can raise someone’s risk and make them more susceptible to stroke. These are called risk factors.
The more risk factors a person has, the more susceptible to stroke they become. Some risk factors can be treated and controlled while others, such as age and gender are beyond our power.
Highly contributable risk factors:
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure is the top contributing factor to stroke. Blood pressure should be checked regularly and treated if it is too high.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes are at least twice as likely to have a stroke than people without diabetes.
- Heart disease: Heart disease can increase the chance of blood clots to form, which can cause a stroke.
- High cholesterol: Cholesterol or plaque buildup in the arteries can limit blood flow to the brain. Additionally, plaque can break off and create a blockage in the arteries of the brain, ultimately leading to a stroke.
- Smoking: Smoking accelerates blood clot formation by thickening the blood and creating more plaque-build up in the arteries. Smoking can also damage blood vessels and raise blood pressure.
- Age: Risk for stroke generally increases as you age.
- Gender: In younger ages, men are more likely to have strokes than women. As they get older, however, women are more likely to have and die from strokes. Women who take oral contraceptive pills are also at a greater risk of having a stroke at any age.
- Race: Strokes occurrences are higher in African-American, Alaskan Native, and Native American populations than Caucasian or Asian American populations.
- Family history of stroke: If someone in your family has had a stroke, especially before the age of 60, you are at greater risk of having a stroke yourself..
- Previous stroke: After an initial stroke, chances for subsequent strokes increase.
Other risk factors:
- Sedentary lifestyle: Not being physically active not only increases the risk of stroke, but it also increases the risk of heart disease, becoming overweight, getting high blood pressure, and diabetes.