Take Steps to Lower Your Stroke Risk

Lower stroke risk by quitting smoking and exercising more often

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Your risk of having a stroke doesn't just boil down to genetics. In fact, there are many steps you can take to lower your risk. The problem is individuals appear to be missing those opportunities to cut their stroke risk.

A new study found that a high percentage of individuals may have a heightened stroke risk because they smoke, fail to exercise, are overweight, drink too much and don't get enough sleep. Others did not manage their high cholesterol or hypertension.

"Exercise and avoid smoking to protect your heart."

Bettina von Sarnowski, MD, a lead researcher from the Department of Neurology, University Medicine, Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Germany, found that modifiable risk factors for stroke were prevalent among young to middle-aged individuals. This was especially true of men and older patients.

About 10 percent of ischemic strokes occur in patients under the age of 45.

During the large European cohort study, researchers followed 4,467 patients between the ages of 18 and 55 who experienced a stroke or mini stroke. The average patient age was 47.

Among the patients who had a stroke or mini stroke, researchers found that 56 percent were smokers, 48 percent did not exercise and 22 percent were obese. Nearly half of participants had unmanaged high blood pressure and 47 percent had elevated cholesterol.

Investigators also determined that 33 percent engaged in high-risk alcohol consumption and 21 percent did not get enough sleep each night, though these modifiable risk factors were more prevalent among men. However, women were more likely to skip physical activity, especially those over age 35.

Three quarters of women older than 25 had high proportions of abdominal obesity and 27 percent of women also experienced migraines.

Among all participants, researchers found that the prevalence of hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes increased with age. At age 45, 29 percent of men engaged in four or more modifiable risk factors compared to 20 percent of women.

Only 5 percent, or 238 participants who experienced a stroke, were free of modifiable or potentially modifiable risk factors, while 12 percent, or 513 individuals, were free of modifiable risk factors.

Investigators noted that the findings support a better awareness and emphasis on preventative measures such as exercise, smoking cessation and medication for high cholesterol and hypertension among younger patients.

The study was recently published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 9, 2013
Last Updated:
January 15, 2013