Are you at risk for a stroke?

Stroke is the fifth-largest killer of Canadian adults. It's also the primary cause of physical disabilities and is second only to Alzheimer's disease as a cause of mental disability.

In Canada, there are more than 62,000 strokes a year. About 4.5% of deaths in Canada are due to stroke – and 19% of cardiovascular-related deaths. On average, one stroke occurs about every 9 minutes; 60% of those affected are left with some degree of long-term disability, which translates to more than 400,000 Canadians living with long-term disability from stroke. Moreover, this number is set to almost double in the next 20 years.

While the risk of stroke increases sharply after the age of 55, anyone can have a stroke, including young, healthy people. However, some of us are more at risk. Stroke has many of the same risk factors as heart disease. Although some risk factors, such as age, cannot be controlled, there are many risk factors that can be controlled.

Risk factors that can be controlled or treated include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • blood vessel disease (such as peripheral artery disease or carotid artery disease)
  • atrial fibrillation (a disorder of the heart rhythm where the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating normally)
  • heart disease (including atrial fibrillation)
  • transient ischemic attacks (TIAs; a "mini-stroke" that has symptoms similar to a stroke, but with no lasting brain damage)
  • some types of blood disorders (such as sickle cell anemia)
  • smoking
  • inactivity
  • obesity
  • diet
  • high alcohol consumption (for men, more than 15 drinks per week; for women, more than 10 drinks per week)
  • recreational drug use (cocaine, amphetamines, and LSD)
  • use of postmenopausal hormone therapy
  • stress

Risk factors that cannot be controlled or treated include:

  • age: stroke risk increases as you age, doubling every decade for people over 55 years of age
  • gender: strokes are more common in men than in women until menopause, but women are more likely to die of stroke
  • family (parents, siblings, or children) history of stroke or heart disease
  • ethnicity: Indigenous people and people of African or South Asian descent are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes and so are at a higher risk of heart disease than the general population
  • personal history of heart attack or stroke: if you have already had a stroke or heart attack, you're more likely to have a stroke
  • low birth weight

If you're concerned that you might be at risk, speak to your health care professional. They will be able to help you find ways to deal with the risk factors that can be controlled.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stroke