What is a Stroke/Brain Attack? - National Stroke Association

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What is a Stroke/Brain Attack? - National Stroke Association

Controllable Stroke Risk Factors

Treatable Medical Disorders that Increase Stroke Risk Include:

High Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, increases stroke risk four to six times. 2 It

is the single most important controllable stroke risk factor. High blood pressure is often

called "the silent killer" because people can have it and not realize it, since it often has

no symptoms. Hypertension is a common condition, affecting approximately 50 million

Americans, or one-third of the adult population. 4 Blood pressure is high if it is

consistently more than 140/90. Between 40 and 90 percent of all stroke patients had

high blood pressure before their stroke. 2 Hypertension puts stress on blood vessel

walls and can lead to strokes from blood clots or hemorrhages. 4

Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease and High Cholesterol

High cholesterol can directly and indirectly increase stroke risk by clogging blood

vessels and putting people at greater risk for coronary heart disease, another important

stroke risk factor. A cholesterol level of more than 200 is considered "high." Cholesterol

is a soft, waxy fat in the bloodstream and in all of your body’s cells. Your body naturally

makes all the cholesterol it needs to form cell membranes, some hormones and vitamin

D. In addition, certain foods (such as egg yolks, liver or foods fried in animal fat or

tropical oils) contain cholesterol and saturated fats which increase cholesterol levels.

High levels of cholesterol in the blood stream can lead to the buildup of plaque on

artery walls, which can clog arteries and cause a heart or brain attack.

Atrial fibrillation

Heart disease such as atrial fibrillation increases stroke risk up to six times. 5 About 15

percent of all people who suffer stroke have a type of heart disease called atrial fibrillation,

or AF. Affecting more than 2 million Americans, 6 AF is caused when the atria (the

two upper chambers of the heart) beat rapidly and unpredictably, producing an irregular

heartbeat. AF raises stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the heart. When

blood pools, it tends to form clots which can then be carried to the brain, causing a

stroke.

Normally, all four chambers of the heart beat in the same rhythm somewhere between

60 and 100 times every minute. In someone with AF, the left atrium may beat as many

as 400 times a minute. If left untreated, AF can increase stroke risk four to six times. 7

Over time, untreated AF can also weaken the heart, leading to potential heart failure.

The prevalence of AF increases with age. AF is found most often in people over age 65

and in people who have heart disease or thyroid disorders. Among people age 50 to

59, AF is linked to 6.7 percent of all strokes. By ages 80-89, AF is responsible for 36.2

percent of all strokes. 8

National Stroke Association’s Complete Guide to Stroke

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