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This Dramatically Reduces Your Stroke Risk, Says New Study

Hint—you’re probably already doing it!

According to the CDC, one in every six deaths from cardiovascular disease in 2018 was due to stroke. "Generally speaking, it's always been thought to be a condition of older individuals, and so in general your risk starts to really start to go up after the age of 60, 65," says stroke neurologist Dr. Shazam Hussain. "However, unfortunately as many of us know, in the United States, especially because of our bad diets and lack of exercise and other risk factors, that we're seeing that age getting younger and younger and younger. Unfortunately, also, there's other types of strokes that can even present, other reasons to have a stroke that can present at a very, very young age." Here's how to dramatically reduce your stroke risk according to experts, including a brand new study that avoiding stroke might be easier than we thought. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Is a Stroke?

Female doctor consults mature patient during the quarantine for coronavirus.

There are two main causes of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. "A stroke is a sudden onset of neurological dysfunction attributed to the brain or the eye or the spinal cord," says Dr. Hussain. "Basically, the actual word stroke actually is a Greek word that comes to strike, because it really does strike people out of nowhere and causes them to have these disabilities. Overall, from strokes we actually have two major categories. We talk about the ischemic type strokes and the hemorrhagic type strokes. Ischemic type strokes are a type of stroke where a blood clot comes from somewhere in the body and blocks off a blood vessel to the brain that deprives it of that blood that it really, really needs and therefore causes its problems, whereas a hemorrhagic type stroke is when there's actually a bursting of the blood vessel causing bleeding in the brain."


Obesity and Strokes

Doctor measuring obese man waist body fat. Obesity and weight loss

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of stroke, studies show. "Other research has convincingly shown that obesity is linked to coronary heart disease, but the stroke risk associated with weight gain has, until this study, been a debatable issue," says Tobias Kurth of Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). "We were able to show that there is a quantifiable increase in your chances of having a stroke when you are overweight or obese. Our findings underscore the fact that your risk of stroke is modifiable when it comes to how much you weigh. The prevention of stroke may be another benefit associated with preventing excess weight and obesity in adults."


COVID-19 and Strokes?

Close-up of covid-19 infected patient in bed in hospital, coronavirus and ventilation.

Research shows that being infected with COVID-19 is strongly linked to a higher risk of stroke, experts warn. "Stroke following the diagnosis of COVID-19 is a possible complication of COVID-19 that patients and clinicians should be aware of," says Quanhe Yang, Ph.D., senior scientist in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. "Vaccination and other preventive measures for COVID-19 are important to reduce the risk of infection and complications including stroke."


Who Is Most At Risk??

older man with dementia talking to doctor
Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

"In general, the risk factors are generally pretty similar between men and women," says Dr. Hussain. "Overall, we talk about the risk factors that we can control and the ones we can't control. Unfortunately, the biggest risk factor for stroke is age, which none of us have a solution to yet, but hopefully someday. Otherwise though, there are many risk factors that we can control when it comes to stroke, particularly the biggest one is actually high blood pressure. If we were able to control everybody's blood pressure in the United States and keep it normal, we'd actually eliminate half the strokes that occur in the country."


New Study Shows How To Avoid Stroke

group of active people using dumbbells during walking workout outside

We know that sitting all day is very bad for your health—and now a new research study from San Diego State University (SDSU) shows that people who are sedentary for 13 hours or more a day have a 44% increased risk of stroke. The good news? Simple everyday activities are highly effective at lowering the risk of stroke. "Light-intensity physical activity can include vacuuming, sweeping the floor, washing the car, leisure strolling, stretching, or playing catch," says Steven Hooker, dean of SDSU's College of Health and Human Services and lead researcher of the cohort study. "We observed that both physical activity and being sedentary independently impacted stroke risk. Our research demonstrates that strategies for stroke prevention should focus on both… "For overall heart and brain health, move more within your capacity, and sit less." 

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan