Stroke or brain attack can hit anyone anytime like an electric shock. Even if you survive stroke, the aftermath can be devastating – affecting your movement and speech and sometimes making you paralyzed for life. Many of us are aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease and other major diseases, but unfortunately unaware of the warning signs of stroke though it is one of the leading causes of deaths across the globe. Your understanding of stroke helps protect you from both the forms of stroke (ischemic stroke– caused by blood clot and hemorrhagic stroke – caused by bleeding in the brain). Prior to understanding the major signs and symptoms, knowing the major factors that may be putting you at risk is very important.

High Blood Pressure: It is one of the major risk factors for stroke, but unfortunately majority of the people don’t keep it under check. In women, who experience stroke, high blood pressure has been regarded as the main reason as women tend to neglect their blood pressure levels. Though high blood pressure doesn’t prompt any outright symptoms – yet it is necessary to keep it under control by making the necessary lifestyle changes, doing exercise or taking medications.

Smoking:There is a direct relation between the number of cigarettes smoked and the likelihood of getting strokes. Smokers have more than double or triple the risk of stroke than non-smokers and the risk increases manifold in heavy smokers. In addition, the risk further increases in women who smoke and the smokers with a family history of aneurysm.

Family History of Stroke: The likelihood of getting stroke is there in your genes – the reason, scientists have identified the region of a chromosome wherein two genetic variants appeared to be responsible for ischemic stroke. The research studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, has not yet concluded the type of mutations responsible for stroke, but clearly confirmed that one of the gene variants increases the possibility of stroke by 30 percent. Which means, if any of yours close relative have had suffered a stroke, then your chances of having one increases.

Migraines: There are many reasons why migraines can be a risk factor for stroke. People with heart disease and migraine and women who are taking birth control pills and have migraine are at increased risk. Similarly, people who have migraines with visual problems and aura are also at risk of stroke as against the people who don’t have this symptom. According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women who have migraines and are taking birth control pills may have the likelihood of getting stroke three times more than the women who are not taking birth control pills.

Transient Ischemic Attacks: Better understanding of mini-stroke or Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) helps you prevent full blown stroke in the future. When people experience mini-stroke, they usually don’t seek immediate medical care owing to short-lived, painless and fleeting symptoms, which may last only for a few minutes. But, according to AHA, up to 20% of the people who get TIAs, will get actual stroke within three months. Moreover, the risk is highest within the first month itself. However, immediate approach to a physician and quick diagnosis help prevent the risk of stroke.

History of stroke: This is quite an important factor to pay heed for as someone who have had stroke is at an increased risk for another, unless they had already worked with their doctor to reduce the risk factors. But, according to several published stories, efforts to reduce the risks of second stroke are lacking as only about 50% of the people who have had stroke had got involved themselves in exercise and other activities.

The preventive measures you can take include:

  • Take medications and do exercise to control high blood pressure.
  • Check blood glucose levels at least twice a year if you are a diabetic.
  • Get the flu and pneumococcal vaccine ( vaccination against common infections may reduce the risk of stroke)
  • Make dietary changes if you have high blood pressure.
  • Quit smoking if you smoke.