What are the risk factors for stroke and how can they be minimised?

The most common risk factors that could lead to stroke are diabetes mellitus,commonly referred to as diabetes; hypertension, also known as high blood pressure; hyperlipidaemia (high cholesterol); cigarette smoking; and atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heart rhythm.

Some stroke patients may also have predisposing underlying cardiac conditions such as abnormal heart valves or an abnormal communication between the left and right sides of their heart.

Younger stroke patients may also have antibodies in their blood that make their blood clot more easily.

People with a long family history of stroke, especially at a younger age, are at increased risk of having strokes younger.

There are also certain hereditary conditions, such as autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, which are associated with brain aneurysms.

The risk of stroke can be reduced if a person quits smoking and controls risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia by taking medicationand following a diet prescribed by doctors.

Some patients with disorders of blood clotting or certain heart conditions may also be prescribed blood-thinning medication by their doctors to help reduce their risk of ischaemic strokes.

If a person experiences any symptoms of stroke– such as slurred speech or a sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side– he should seek treatment at a hospital emergency department immediately. Early treatment can help to reduce the disability caused by strokes.

Source: Dr Carol Tham, consultant, Department of Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute