Are you at risk for stroke?


reviewed 10/25/2018

Stroke risk assessment

Answering the following questions can help you learn more about your risk for stroke. Once you know your risk factors, work with your doctor to make lifestyle changes and treat medical conditions that could be putting you on the path to a stroke.

Note: This assessment is not intended to be a substitute for a visit with your healthcare provider.

Are you 55 or older?

If you answered "yes." The older you are, the greater your stroke risk. In fact, the risk doubles every decade after age 55.

If you answered "no." Your stroke risk doubles every decade after age 55, but stroke can strike at any age. Be sure you take steps to manage any controllable risk factors you may have.

Are you African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander?

If you answered "yes." African Americans have almost double the rate of stroke as Caucasians. This can be due, in part, to a higher incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes and other problems, all of which increase the risk of stroke.

Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders also have a higher risk of stroke than Caucasians.

If you answered "no." Your race and ethnicity don't appear to put you at increased risk for stroke. However, stroke affects people of all races and ethnicities, so take steps to control any other risk factors you have.

Do you have a family history of stroke?

If you answered "yes." If anyone in your family has had a stroke, everyone in the family has a higher risk of having a stroke.

If you answered "no." That is good news, both for your family members and for you. If anyone in your family has had a stroke, everyone in the family has a higher risk of having a stroke.

Have you had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

If you answered "yes." If you've already had a stroke, or stroke-like symptoms that soon went away without permanent effects (TIA), then your risk of another stroke is high. Fortunately, recurrent strokes can often be prevented with lifestyle changes and by managing medical conditions that increase stroke risk.

If you answered "no." Count yourself fortunate—the risk of having a stroke is quite high if you've already had a stroke or TIA. Do all you can now to avoid a first stroke or TIA.

Do you have high blood pressure?

If you answered "yes." High blood pressure makes the heart work harder, weakens blood vessels, and damages the brain and other major organs. Untreated high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. Work closely with your doctor to get and keep your blood pressure in check.

If you answered "no." Congratulations! Continue regular blood pressure checks so that you and your doctor can make sure it stays in a healthy range.

I don't know. Because high blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke and other health problems, it's a good idea to know if yours is in a healthy range. Optimal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. See your doctor for a blood pressure check soon.

Do you have atrial fibrillation?

If you answered "yes." This type of irregular heartbeat increases stroke risk by five times. Work with your doctor to get this condition under control.

If you answered "no." This type of irregular heartbeat increases stroke risk by five times.

Do you have unhealthy cholesterol levels?

If you answered "yes." Unhealthy cholesterol levels can increase stroke risk by blocking blood flow to the brain. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions for controlling your cholesterol.

If you answered "no." That's great news. Keep your cholesterol levels in check with a healthful diet and regular exercise, and ask your doctor how often you should have your cholesterol checked.

If you answered "I don't know." If you are 20 years old or older, you should have your cholesterol tested at least every five years. Unhealthy cholesterol levels don't usually cause symptoms, but they can contribute to a variety of health problems, including stroke.

Do you have diabetes?

If you answered "yes." Having diabetes means you're up to four times more likely to have a stroke. And people with diabetes often have other stroke risk factors. Team up with your doctor to make sure your diabetes is under control.

If you answered "no." Help keep diabetes at bay with healthy habits, such as exercising, eating right and maintaining a healthy weight.

Do you smoke?

If you answered "yes." Smoking leads to high blood pressure and speeds up the clogging of arteries. Overall, smoking doubles a person's stroke risk. Talk to your doctor for help quitting.

If you answered "no." You're doing your heart and blood vessels a big favor by not indulging in this bad habit. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke, so continue to shun tobacco.

Do you drink alcohol?

If you answered "yes." Heavy alcohol use—having more than one or two drinks a day—raises your risk of having a stroke, in part because it affects your blood pressure. Cutting back can reduce the risk.

If you answered "no." Good for you. Drinking alcohol can affect your health in a variety of ways, including raising your risk of stroke.

Are you obese?

If you answered "yes." Being overweight is putting a strain on your circulatory system. It also increases your chances of having other stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Aim to eat a variety of healthy foods, and increase your activity levels to help get your weight to an optimal level.

If you answered "no." You're less likely to have a stroke than someone carrying extra weight.

If you answered "I don't know." To get an idea of whether you're at a healthy weight, check your body mass index.

Are you inactive?

If you answered "yes." Help reduce your risk of stroke by getting more exercise. Start slowly and try to work up to at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. Be sure to get your doctor's OK before starting an exercise program if you haven't been active in a while or if you have any health issues that could be made worse by exercise.

If you answered "no, I exercise regularly." Keep it up! Being active decreases your risk for stroke. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week.

Results

Based on the information you provided, you may have the following risks for stroke:

[factors listed depend on assessment answers]

Share the results of this test with your doctor, and be sure to get his or her insight on how to reduce your risk of stroke.

For more information about stroke risk factors, download the National Stroke Association's Stroke Risk Scorecard.

[OR]

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, share your results with your doctor, and ask how you can reduce your risk of stroke.

If you answered "no" to all the questions, you don't appear to have any major risk factors for stroke. But remember, your risk may change over time. If you have any concerns about your health, talk to your doctor.

If you didn't know the answers to any of the questions, you should take the time to learn about them.

Not everyone who has a stroke has risk factors. It's a good idea to learn the symptoms of a stroke so that you can seek immediate medical attention if they occur.

For more information about stroke risk factors, download the National Stroke Association's Stroke Risk Scorecard.

Sources: American Stroke Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Stroke Association

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