While Hackensack cardiology specialists know that heart disease is the #1 cause of death in America, stroke is not far behind, at #3. 800,000 Americans have strokes every year; of these, approximately 75% are first attacks, while 25% are recurrent attacks. In addition, people can have “mini-strokes” (transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs) which do not produce the full symptoms of a stroke and cause no permanent damage, but which increase your likelihood of having a full stroke later by a factor of ten.
Is your age a major risk factor for you having a stroke?
Possibly. While it is true that a stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, most strokes occur in people who are over 65. If you are over the age of 55, your risk of having a stroke doubles every ten years. As with cardiovascular disease, however, there are many risk factors that increase your likelihood of having a stroke, so to protect yourself you need to be aware of them:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol levels.
- A history of prior heart attack or atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).
- Diabetes and associated obesity.
- Smoking cigarettes.
- Race – African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans are more at risk.
- Heredity – your risk is higher if a family member has had a stroke.
- Prior stroke or TIA – this is one of the most significant risk factors.
What you can do to reduce your stroke risk
Obviously, you can’t do anything about your race or your genetic background. With regard to your age, however, you can and should be more proactive about your stroke risk after you pass the age of 55, having checkups with your Hackensack heart specialist every few years, especially if you have other risk factors.
You can do something about many of the other risk factors, too, and you should. If you smoke, you really should stop – doing so will not only lower your risk of stroke, but will cut your risk of heart attack in half within a year. If you are overweight, losing weight can significantly reduce your stroke risk, especially if the obesity is linked to diabetes. If you are diabetic and overweight, losing as little as ten pounds can significantly lower your blood glucose levels, and thus your risk of having a stroke. Controlling your high blood pressure and cholesterol levels – whether with diet and exercise or with medication – will also reduce your stroke risk, while lowering your heart risk as well.
If you’re older, your emotional state can put you at increased stroke risk
For those over 50, recent studies have indicated that there is a significant link between stress, hostility, and depression and increased stroke risk. Chronic feelings of hostility doubled the likelihood of having a stroke, chronic stress increased stroke risk by 59%, and depressive symptoms increased it by 86%. So if you feel that you are affected by any of these conditions, you should mention them to your Hackensack heart doctor and allow him to help you find treatments to combat these negative emotional states.
Also on the positive side, recent research has indicated that older men can reduce their stroke risk by as much as one-third simply by taking a walk every day. And the walk doesn’t have to be particularly brisk, just an hour or so long.
What is the most important thing you can do to reduce your stroke risk?
As noted above, seek heart disease treatment in Hackensack, get a checkup to determine your current levels of risk, and then work with your Hackensack cardiology specialists to reduce those risk levels. Start with a phone call to Cross County Cardiology at 201-299-4479 or go online to set up an appointment.