Hypertension and Stroke: Top 10 Risk Factors
Did you know that strokes rank as the fourth leading cause of death in America and are also considered one of the main causes of long-term disability? Learning more about strokes and contributing factors that cause the disease is essential for maintaining good health throughout life.
There are two types of strokes. Ischemic strokes (the most common) occur when blood vessels in the brain become clogged. Hemorrhagic strokes present when a blood vessel bursts near or inside the brain. Both types prevent crucial blood flow from reaching the brain, causing brain cells to die, which can lead to loss of quality of life--as well as death.
What causes a stroke and how can it be prevented?
The leading cause of stroke is hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. High blood pressure is diagnosed if your blood pressure is consistently 140/90 mmHg. Unfortunately hypertension is considered a silent killer, as many don't realize they suffer the condition until it is too late. However, once diagnosed there are ways to successfully manage hypertension that can potentially lower your risk of stroke considerably.
Here are a few risk factors as well as preemptive guidelines to help you avoid stroke:
- Sedentary lifestyles with little or no exercise negatively affect cardiovascular health. Exercise plays an important role in lowering blood pressure, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and can even play a part in the prevention or management of type 2 diabetes.
- Extra pounds around the mid-section potentially increase your risk for stroke. With your doctor's advice, find a diet and exercise program to help battle the "apple-shape" and pursue good health.
- If you smoke...quit now. Studies show those who are able to kick the habit are at the same stroke risk level as non-smokers
- Unhealthy diets may play a part in increasing risk for stroke. Health professionals suggest a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish and fruit, as research shows those foods seemed to contribute to stroke prevention
- For those who have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, taking anti-coagulant (blood thinning) medication is critical.
- High levels of high-density lipoprotein, also known as good cholesterol, has been linked to lowering the chance of experiencing ischemic strokes.
- Consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation can potentially lessen the risk of ischemic stroke. Heavy drinking, however, has been found to increase the risk.
- Although researchers are unable to pinpoint the exact reasons why, they found that chronic stress and depression increase the risk of stroke. There is an unconfirmed possibility that those who suffer these conditions are less apt to follow healthy dietary and exercise routines, or to take required medications regularly. Not leading healthy lifestyles can, in fact, lead to stroke.
With these risk factors in mind, it is important to note that the general rule-of-thumb in preventing a stroke is to live an overall healthy lifestyle. Exercise helps reduce stress and depression, but also promotes cardiovascular health and physical fitness. Healthy diets can help regulate cholesterol, reduce cardiovascular disease and also aid in maintaining healthy weight. Regular medical check-ups can detect conditions that indicate high blood pressure, stroke and other issues you are unable to discover on your own.
Bottom line: the better your health, the better your chances of avoiding a stroke. Be sure to consult your physician to determine your potential risk factors for stroke. Your physician can work with you in finding the best exercise and diet regimen based on your physical abilities that can help you avoid suffering a stroke.
Johns Hopkins Health Alert (2012). Big 10 risk factors for stroke. Retrieved on August 14, 2012, from johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/hypertension_stroke/10-Stroke-Risk-Factors_6280-1.html.
American Heart Association (2012). Stroke and high blood pressure. Retrieved on August 14, 2012, from heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/WhyBloodPressureMatters/Stroke-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301824_Article.jsp.
World Heart Federation. Stroke and hypertension. Retrieved on August 14, 2012, from http://www.world-heart-federation.org/cardiovascular-health/stroke/stroke-and-hypertension/.