Stroke Risk Factors and Stroke Prevention



Alarming statistics show that out of the European countries, Bulgaria is at the forefront of stroke mortality, and worldwide, one in every 10 deaths is caused by a stroke. This is the third most common cause of death after coronary heart disease and cancer.

Anyone, regardless of age, gender or race, can suffer a stroke. In the presence of risk factors, the chances of suffering a stroke increase. But if we are aware of these factors, it is possible to prevent two-thirds of strokes.

Which risk factors are controllable?

In general, the main factors that play a role in a stroke can be divided into those that can be controlled and those that are uncontrollable.

The uncontrollable ones include old age, the male sex, the family burden, etc.

On the other hand, there are completely controllable factors. If they are related to lifestyle, they can be changed, and those caused by diseases removed with treatment.

The main risk factors that can be controlled include:


This is actually high blood pressure, and according to the WHO, it occurs when the two levels are permanently elevated above 140/90 mmHg.

People with high blood pressure are 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke because the heart needs more effort to pump blood. In this way, blood vessels are weakened and important organs, including the heart, are damaged.

High cholesterol levels

As a lipid or fat, cholesterol is constantly circulating in the bloodstream and is present in every cell. Due to its important functions, our body needs it. It is found mainly in meat and dairy products.

Cholesterol cannot be broken down in the bloodstream and is carried by lipoproteins to and from cells. Of the several types of lipoproteins, the most important are LDL – low density, and HDL – high density. “Bad” cholesterol forms those with low density, and it can build up on the walls of blood vessels and lead to their narrowing. Plaques can cause ischemic stroke.


A patient with diabetes is 4 times more likely to have a stroke. Blood sugar has very high levels that cannot be absorbed by the cells. This is type 2 diabetes, which is more common. It usually affects adults and may not be detected immediately. While in type 1 the insulin produced, which converts glucose in the blood, is insufficient, in the second type, due to the developed insulin resistance of the cells, the blood sugar rises above normal levels.


Atherosclerosis is characterized by the rapid buildup of plaques of cells and fat formations in the inner lining of an artery. The walls thicken and as a result, the brain may not get enough blood. The symptoms are not obvious, but can be detected by examination.

Atrial fibrillation

The condition is a type of arrhythmia and is expressed in rapid contractions (atrial fibrillation) that can reach 350-450 a minute. It creates the conditions for the blood to be retained in the atrial fibrillation, to cause the formation of blood clots, and to cause a stroke when it reaches the cerebral vessels.

Data show that almost 15% of people with stroke also suffer from atrial fibrillation. With timely diagnosis, stroke can be prevented.


Obesity has a detrimental effect on the entire circulatory system as it puts extra strain on it. It can increase LDL cholesterol levels, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar levels – all potential causes of stroke.

Smoking and alcohol

As two unhealthy habits, in many cases, they play a positive role in provoking a stroke.

Smoking lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood and contributes to the accumulation of deposits on the walls of blood vessels.

With regard to alcohol, there is no conclusive evidence that it increases the risk of stroke when consuming up to one – two drinks a day. Most medical professionals agree that the number of drinks for men should not exceed two per day, and for women only one is recommended.

Although stroke treatments have been reported to be successful, early prevention is more important.

What prevention is needed to reduce the risk of stroke?

There are no universal rules for stroke prevention, but following some recommendations would play a positive role:

  • Regular monitoring of personal risk factors and periodic visits to the GP for preventive examinations, tests, and consultations;
  • Maintaining good physical activity;
  • Healthy diet, including mostly fruits, vegetables, and little salt;
  • Minimum alcohol consumption;
  • Quitting smoking;
  • Awareness of stroke warning symptoms and necessary measures.

The effectiveness of primary prevention will be greater if it is carried out systematically. Almost 80% of the causes of stroke can be controlled, which means that being at risk depends on everyone’s personal prevention.

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