80% of Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke.
Risk Factors you can’t change:
- Age- The risk of stroke increases for adults over the age of 55.
- Gender- Women past menopause have a higher risk for stroke.
- Family History- This includes parents or siblings who have had a stroke or TIA.
- Ethnicity- Adults of Aboriginal, African or South Asian descent are at greater risk.
- Previous stroke or TIA- Increases the likelihood of having another one.
Risk Factors you can change:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Heart Problems
- Being overweight
- Excessive alcohol use
- Physical inactivity
A Deeper Look at How These Risk Factors Increase your Risk for Stroke
High Blood Pressure over time:
- Damages blood vessel walls causing scarring that promotes the build-up of fatty plaque which can narrow and block arteries;
- Strains and weakens the heart.
- Can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst, causing a stroke.
High Cholesterol/Triglyceride levels cause hard plaque to deposit on the inner walls of your blood vessels. This causes them to narrow, making it difficult for blood to flow through the body. This can lead to blood clots, which block the flow of blood to the brain, resulting in a Stroke.
Diabetes increases the risk of High Blood Pressure, Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels), Coronary Artery Disease and Stroke. If your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled, it can result in circulation problems caused by damage to the blood vessels.
Heart Problems such as Atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm) can cause blood to pool and get stuck in the grooves of the heart. Clots can form from this pooled blood, and may get pumped up to the brain and result in a stroke.
Too much alcohol consumption can increase your blood pressure and play a part in the development of heart disease and stroke.
Smoking adds to the build-up of plaque in your arteries (blood vessels), and can increase the risk of blood clots. As well in can reduce the oxygen in your blood, increase your blood pressure and make your heart work harder.
Smoking nearly doubles the risk of ischemic stroke caused by a blood clot.
Stress- People who have high levels of stress or prolonged stress may have high blood pressure. These people are more likely to get atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) and have high blood cholesterol.
You can change, treat and control the above risk factors through healthy eating, regular physical activity, medications, and quitting smoking. You should also take time to relax and enjoy life.