May is the month devoted to stroke awareness, and one thing to be aware of is whether or not you’re at risk.
A handful of risk factors, like age, can’t be changed. But many of the conditions that raise the risk are actually within our own control.
Here is how the National Stroke Association divides the risk factors:
What we can’t change:
1. Age: The risk doubles for each decade after age 55.
2. Heredity: The risk is greater if a parent, grandparent or sibling has had a stroke.
3. Race: The risk is higher for African Americans than Caucasians. (But this is partly due to the fact that blacks are at higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.)
4: Gender: Stroke is more common in men than in women. (But women account for more than half of all stroke deaths, and using birth control pills and pregnancy pose special stroke risks among women.)
5. A prior stroke, warning stroke or heart attack ups the stroke risk.
Risk factors that can be treated or are within our control:
1. High blood pressure (the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor.)
2. Cigarette smoking.
4. Carotid or other artery disease.
5. Peripheral artery disease.
6. Atrial fibrillation and other heart disease.
7. Sickle cell disease.
8. High blood cholesterol.
9. Poor diet: That includes consuming too many calories and diets high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium, all of which contribute to other risk factors. (On the flip side, eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables may reduce stroke risk.)
10. Physical inactivity and obesity.