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Most Treatable Stroke Risk Factors Explained

Health • by Paul De Beyer • 09 October 2020
With World Stroke Awareness Day coming up, let’s take a look at some of the most treatable risk factors for strokes, and what you can do to reduce your risk.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails or is decreased to the point where your brain can’t get enough oxygen. This lack of oxygen causes your brain cells to die, leading to potentially permanent brain damage and even death.

What can cause a stroke?

The most common cause of a stroke is called an ischaemic stroke, which is the blockage of the blood vessel in the brain or neck. These strokes are usually caused by one of three conditions:

  1. A blood clot in the brain or neck which is called a thrombosis;
  2. An embolism, where a clot moves from one part of the body to another such as from the heart to the brain and blocks the flow of blood; or
  3. A stenosis, which is the narrowing of the artery leading to or from the brain

The other type of stroke is a haemorrhagic stroke which is caused by bleeding into the brain or space around the brain, and is usually caused by trauma of some kind.

What medical conditions can you treat to reduce your risk of stroke?

Otherwise known as hypertension, your risk increases as you get older.

To check if you suffer from hypertension, visit your GP and ask for your blood pressure to be tested. Try not to eat or drink any sugary or caffeinated foods or drinks before your appointment as that can affect the result of the test.

Heart disorders are one of the most common causes of strokes as your heart is directly impacted by an ischaemic stroke. A variety of diseases and conditions can cause clots which can travel to the brain and block the blood flow. As you get older your risk of suffering a stroke due to heart disease increases, and it’s wise to have your heart checked regularly by your GP.

Diabetes effectively adds around 10 to 15 years to your “age”. This means that if you’re a diabetes sufferer your risk of stroke could be higher than you think, as your age is not a fair reflection anymore. Any mismanagement of glucose levels can also accelerate the risks of stroke. Diabetes sufferers tend to also suffer from hypertension, increasing the risk of stroke further.

If you’re a diabetes sufferer and are struggling with your medication and insulin levels, ensure that you speak to your GP.

High cholesterol is the build-up of fatty tissue in your blood which creates blockages in your arteries and can significantly increase your risks of suffering a stroke. The build-up of this fatty tissue can lead to atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the arteries, and is a direct cause of strokes. Visit your GP once a year to get your cholesterol checked.

Obesity can increase your risk of stroke as it’s usually linked with hypertension, diabetes and some forms of heart disease.

Is your family history important?

Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol have a tendency to run in the family. If any of your direct relatives have any of the above-mentioned conditions, you should visit your GP and ask for a test.

Can lifestyle increase your risk of stroke?

Lifestyle choices such as smoking, heavy drinking, drug use, lack of physical inactivity and poor diet can all directly increase your risk of stroke. One of the biggest direct factors you can change to reduce your risk of stroke is to stop smoking.

What can you do to mitigate almost all these risks?

  1. Get regular health screening tests done at your healthcare provider including blood pressure and cholesterol
  2. Maintain a healthy diet
  3. Cut down on salt
  4. Cut down on sugar-rich foods
  5. Give up smoking
  6. Try to include 30 minutes of light exercise every day

With GetSavvi Health you can use your unlimited doctors’ visits benefit to see your GP and check any of the treatable risk factors related to increasing your risk of having a stroke. Click here to check if your plan includes unlimited doctors’ visits.

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