Stroke risk factors everyone should know

By Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 10 2014 12:32:11 PM EST

According to the National Stroke Association, 80% of strokes can be prevented, but knowledge of stroke and it's risks are said to be low.  Dr. Jennifer Frontera, who treats stroke patients at Cleveland Clinic, says your top priority should be keeping your blood pressure under control.  

"It's a silent killer because people don't feel bad when they have high blood pressure," warned Frontera. "They don't even notice, so they say, 'I feel fine, why do I need to manage this problem?' But it's actually incredibly dangerous, not just for stroke, but for heart attack."

A good way to keep this risk factor under control is to know what your age-appropriate blood pressure numbers should be. The same goes for your cholesterol numbers, too.

People who have an abnormal heart rhythm or atrial fibrillation are at increased risk for stroke.  Their blood is more prone to clotting, so they're typically put on blood thinners to decrease the risk.

Frontera says smoking is a big risk factor for stroke, as is excessive drinking because of the damage they can do to our arteries.

"Many of those things are risk factors for what we call atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of cholesterol, plaques- hardening of the arteries, basically. When that happens the vessels can narrow and not enough blood can get through and that can cause a stroke or a heart attack," explained Frontera.

Frontera adds the heart and the brain are intimately connected, so any healthy habits you do for your heart should also help to protect your brain.

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