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Categories > Heart Health > Stroke

Me? At risk of stroke? No way!
Reduce your risk

Is aspirin the answer?
Is aspirin the answer?

Aspirin can keep blood from clotting. Some people may benefit from a daily aspirin regimen, but for others the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding may outweigh the benefits. Research has also shown that aspirin affects men and women differently. For example, it may help prevent a first stroke in women, but not in men. On the flip side, daily aspirin may help prevent a first heart attack in men, but not for women under age 65. Ask your provider if daily aspirin is right for you.

You’re not overweight, you’ve never had heart problems, you try to avoid salty, fatty, bad-for-you foods and you feel fine. But you still may not be in the clear when it comes to stroke. Some risk factors you can’t control, like your family history (did Mom have a stroke?), your age (being older than 55 raises your risk), your ethnicity (African-Americans are more likely to suffer a stroke) and even your gender (men are at greater risk).

The good news is that you can control many risk factors. If you can check off any of the following, consider this your wake-up call. Then start making lifestyle changes to stay stroke-free.

  • You have high blood pressure. They don’t call it the “silent killer” for nothing. You should have your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare provider. Readings of 140/90 mm Hg and above can damage blood vessels in the brain and in the arteries that supply blood to the brain.
  • Your cholesterol level is elevated. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that builds up in the arteries. These deposits can rupture and cause blood clots to travel up to the brain, cutting off blood flow and causing a stroke. If your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher, your LDL (bad) cholesterol is 130 mg/dL or above or your HDL (good) cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL for men (less than 50 mg/dL for women), you may be at higher risk.
  • You have untreated diabetes. The disease makes it impossible for your body to correctly use sugars and fats. Left untreated, diabetes damages blood vessels throughout the body—including those in the brain.
  • You’re physically inactive and/or obese. Not exercising or weighing too much can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease—all stroke risk factors.
  • You smoke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes damage the cardiovascular system.

Reduce your risk

  • Make over your meals. Adding fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy, lean meats and low-sodium foods can help some people lower their blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Pop your prescribed pills. This includes medication for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. Always ask your healthcare provider before stopping any treatment.
  • Do something active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of housework, walking, swimming or some other activity most or all days of the week.
  • Kick butts. Ask your healthcare provider about quit-smoking options like patches, gum or inhalers.