Most causes of stroke can be changed or treated.

Most causes of stroke can be changed or treated.

Stroke continues to be a leading cause of death in Kentucky. In fact, the number of young people hospitalized due to stroke has increased 44 percent over the past decade.

“The numbers are alarming,” said Gauhar Chaudhary, M.D., neurologist with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “Fortunately, most stroke risk factors can be identified and changed, treated or managed with the help of your doctor.”

Here are 10 health issues you can avoid or control to lower your risk for stroke:

High blood pressure (hypertension)

It’s the single most important stroke risk factor. Even mild hypertension can increase your risk for stroke.

Heart disease

This is the second biggest cause of stroke and a major cause of death among stroke survivors. Having regular medical checkups will give your physician a chance to monitor your heart health.

Sleep apnea

This is linked to increased chance of stroke even in people with no other risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

High cholesterol and lipids

These increase risk for stroke but can be controlled by proper medical treatment and a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Lack of exercise and physical inactivity

This increases stroke risk through excess fat storage and a higher risk for heart disease.

Obesity and being overweight

These conditions strain the heart and blood vessels, and are associated with high blood pressure. Obesity also puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease, which increase the chance for stroke.


This greatly increases stroke risk, especially for those who use birth control pills. The good news is that stroke risk declines dramatically within a few years of quitting.

Excessive alcohol use

More than two drinks per day raises blood pressure, and binge drinking increases stroke risk even more. Healthy young adults who are heavy drinkers are just as susceptible to stroke as older people.

Illegal drug abuse

This carries a high risk for stroke from cerebral embolisms (blood clots in the brain). Cocaine use has been linked to strokes, heart attacks and a variety of other cardiovascular complications that can be fatal, even among first-time cocaine users.


Stress tends to increase blood pressure, so it indirectly increases risk for stroke.

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