Uncontrollable Risk Factors

Age : A stroke can happen to anyone, but risk of stroke increases with age. After the age of 55, stroke risk doubles for every decade a person is alive.

Gender: Women suffer more strokes each year than men, mainly because women live longer than men and stroke occurs more often at older ages.  Annually, about 55,000 more women than men have strokes, but stroke incidence is higher in men than women at younger ages. Additionally, women are two times more likely to die of a stroke than breast cancer annually.

A 2006 study of women ages 45 and older showed significantly reduced risk for ischemic stroke (stroke caused by a clot) when women maintained a healthy lifestyle that includes no smoking, moderate alcohol use, average weight for their height, regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Race:  African Americans have twice the risk of stroke when compared to Caucasians. Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders also have higher risk than Caucasians.

Family history: If a family member has had a stroke, everyone in the family has a higher risk of stroke.

Previous stroke or TIA:  After experiencing a stroke, survivors and their families usually concentrate their efforts on rehabilitation and recovery. However, preventing a “recurrent” stroke from happening is also a critical consideration. About 5 to 14 percent of the people who have a stroke this year will have a second one. Within the next 5 years, stroke will recur in 24 percent of women and 42 percent of men.

Stroke prevention is also important to those who have experienced transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). TIAs are brief episodes of stroke-like symptoms that can last from a few minutes to 24 hours, but usually cause no permanent damage or disability. TIAs are serious warning signs of an impending stroke. Up to 40 percent of people who experience a TIA are expected to have a stroke. However, many recurrent strokes and TIAs can be prevented through lifestyle changes, surgery, medication or a combination of all three methods.

Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD): FMD is a medical disorder where some of the arteries that carry blood throughout the body do not develop as they should. Fibrous tissue grows in the wall of the arteries, causing them to narrow. As a result, blood flow through the arteries decreases.

Hole in the heart /patent foramen ovale (PFO): Strokes and TIAs can occur without any obvious risk factors because they are caused by a “hole” in the heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). About 1 in 5 Americans has a PFO. Many don’t know it until a medical condition like a stroke or TIA occurs. PFOs often have no symptoms but they may increase your risk for stroke and TIA. Many PFO-related strokes are called cryptogenic, meaning they have no apparent cause.

Because we have no control over these risk factors, it is especially important that those who have the risk factors mentioned above work with their primary care provider to control risk factors like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes that can be controlled. The Health Education Center at Little company of Mary has many programs to help you with lifestyle changes that will reduce your risk for stroke. For information about these programs call 708 423-5774 or visit us on line at www.lcmh.org/classesandprograms.

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