Stroke statistics are quite startling. Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. experiences a stroke. Every four minutes, someone dies from a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, it is the fourth-leading cause of death in this country.
Despite this, people are often unaware of what a stroke is and what the risk factors are.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke, also known as a “brain attack,” occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. If you know someone who has experienced a stroke, you may have witnessed changes in their movement, speech, alertness, or bodily function. Sometimes these changes are permanent, while other times they are short-term, allowing the person to make a full recovery.
There are two types of strokes:
- Ischemic stroke: Eighty-seven percent of all strokes are ischemic. This type of stroke occurs when an artery becomes blocked, either from a blood clot or a plaque buildup and fatty deposits.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This is the deadliest type of stroke. While only 13 percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic, they make up 30 percent of all stroke-related deaths. A hemorrhagic stroke is the result of a blood vessel in the brain rupturing, causing blood to leak into the brain.
What We Know about Strokes
When it comes to stroke awareness, here’s what older adults and caregivers should know:
- While men are more likely to experience a stroke, women are more likely to die from one.
- African Americans are twice as likely to suffer a stroke than their Caucasian peers.
- While strokes are most common among older adults, 25 percent of them happen to people under age 55.
- Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disabilities in the country.
- Having a stroke increases your risk for experiencing another one. Twenty-five percent of people who have a stroke will suffer a second one within five years.
Unavoidable Risk Factors for a Stroke
Some risk factors for stroke are unavoidable. According to the Stroke Awareness Foundation, those are:
- Age: The risk of stroke doubles every decade over the age of 55.
- Family history: If a close family member has experienced a stroke, it puts you at risk for one too.
- Race: African Americans have a higher risk for stroke than all other races.
The good news is that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with lifestyle changes and behavior modifications. Controllable risk factors include:
- smoking and secondhand smoke exposure,
- obesity and a sedentary lifestyle,
- excessive alcohol consumption.
Each of these behaviors contributes to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are linked to strokes.
If you think you might be at risk for a stroke, talk with your physician. They can conduct a physical and determine what you can do to lower your odds.
You might also want to read “6 Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Risk for a Stroke.” This article outlines lifestyle modifications you can make that may help lower your risk for a stroke.