High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and diabetes are leading causes of stroke. One in three U.S. adults has at least one of these conditions or habits.

Most strokes are preventable through risk factor reduction, which is why it’s important to be aware of the common risks no matter your age, so you can take steps to prevent a stroke.

High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is when your blood pressure, the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently too high. High blood pressure damages arteries throughout the body, creating conditions where they can burst or clog easily. Weakened arteries in the brain, resulting from high blood pressure, put you at a higher risk for stroke.

High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy fat (lipid) in the blood stream that is found in all of your body’s cells. High cholesterol may raise your risk for stroke by increasing your risk for heart disease. Plaque build-up in the arteries from high levels of cholesterol also can block blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.

Tobacco smoke steals your good cholesterol and it becomes more likely that your bad cholesterol will build up. In addition, nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten and restrict blood flow, which puts you at risk for a stroke.

Nearly 70 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese. People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher are considered obese. Being obese can lower your “good” HDL cholesterol level and increase your blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight also will help prevent you from developing other risk factors for stroke, such as diabetes.

People who have diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a stroke. People with diabetes end up with too much glucose in their blood. Over time, this glucose can lead to increased clots on the insides of the blood vessel walls. These clots can narrow or block the blood vessels in the brain or neck, cutting off the blood supply, stopping oxygen from getting to the brain and causing a stroke.

Reducing Your Risk

You can help prevent or manage many of these conditions by:

  • Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean protein
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or less
  • Enjoying 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week
  • Reducing stress
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting alcohol intake

Strokes can and do affect people at any age. If you think you’re at risk for developing one of these risk factors, or have an unmanageable condition, talk to your physician.

Long Beach Medical Center was the 3rd Joint Commission Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in L.A. County joining an elite group of health care organizations focused on highly specialized stroke care.