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Stroke Program

Risks of a Stroke 

Preventing Strokes

Risk factors are things about you or lifestyle habits that increase the risk of disease. While you cannot control your age, gender or heredity, many of the risk factors for stroke are manageable. And, since most of the risk factors for stroke are the same as for heart disease, you really get double the benefit by reducing your stroke risks. Risk factors that increase your chance of developing a stroke include:

  • Alcohol/drug/tobacco abuse
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • History of TIAs [Transient Ischemic Attack or "mini-stroke"]
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Tobacco use
  • Diet

It is important that people with risk factors for stroke or heart disease to work with their health care providers to improve their risks. For example, if you have high blood cholesterol, a change in diet or medications can improve your cholesterol level and reduce your risk of stroke. Work with your health care provider to reduce or control as many risk factors as you can.

What can I do on my own?

It used to be believed that if you have a history of stroke in your family, you were destined to have a stroke. This is not necessarily true. While there may be a genetic component to heart disease and stroke, there are lots of things you can do to reduce your risk factors. Some are easier than others. You should check with your health care provider to help you identify your risks for stroke and to help you reduce those risks.

The following are some things you can do on your own:

  • Don't use tobacco. Tobacco use is the No. 1 preventable cause of serious illness such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic lung disease.
  • Be physically active. Physical activity can reduce blood pressure, reduce blood cholesterol, help with weight loss, and reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Eat healthy foods. Foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol contribute to atherosclerosis, a primary cause of heart attack and stroke. Lots of salt in the diet can also make high blood pressure worse for some people.
  • Watch your weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for stroke. Work with your health care provider to find a healthy approach to weight loss that will work for you, improve your health and reduce your risks for stroke.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol. Too much of anything is not good for you. While one or two drinks may be beneficial in increasing "good" HDL cholesterol, too much alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure, excess weight and diabetes.

What else can I do?

Visit your doctor or other health care provider regularly. Your doctor can help you identify your risk factors for stroke. Regular check-ups gives your healthcare provider the opportunity to evaluate your progress towards reducing your risks by checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and other risk factors. Your doctor is an important partner in helping you to identify risks for stroke and helping you move towards a healthier lifestyle.

If you are interested in programs to help you identify health risks and provide you with customized tools to achieve a healthier lifestyle, check out the Beverly Hospital Lifestyle Management Institute (LMI). Information about LMI classes, programs, and services are available on this website.

You can also take one of our online health risk assessments or use our Find a Doctor tool to search for a healthcare provider who can evaluate your risks for stroke or heart disease.

Beverly Hospital & Addison Gilbert Hospital Stroke Program

978-922-3000 ext. 2235