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Conditions That Increase Risk for Stroke

A blood pressure cuff on a man's arm.

High blood pressure is major risk factor for stroke. It occurs when the pressure of the blood in the arteries is too high.

Many common medical conditions can increase your risk for stroke. Work with your health care team to control your risk.

Previous Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack

If you have already had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a "mini-stroke," your chances of having another stroke are higher.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. It occurs when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high.

There are often no symptoms to signal high blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure by changes in lifestyle or by medication can reduce your risk for stroke.

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver or found in certain foods. Your liver makes enough for your body’s needs, but we often get more cholesterol from the foods we eat. If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the arteries, including those of the brain. This can lead to narrowing of the arteries, stroke, and other problems.

A blood test can detect of the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides (a related kind of fat) in your blood.

Heart Disease

Common heart disorders can increase your risk for stroke. For example, coronary artery disease increases your risk for stroke because plaque builds up in the arteries and blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Other heart conditions, such as heart valve defects, irregular heartbeat (including atrial fibrillation), and enlarged heart chambers, can cause blood clots that may break loose and cause a stroke.

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus also increases the risk for stroke. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body's cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both.

Diabetes causes sugars to build up in the blood. Talk to your doctor about ways to manage diabetes and control other risk factors.

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder associated with ischemic stroke that mainly affects black and Hispanic children. The disease causes some red blood cells to form an abnormal sickle shape. A stroke can happen if sickle cells get stuck in a blood vessel and block the flow of blood to the brain.


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