Risk of stroke and second stroke is influenced by a number of factors. The more stroke risk factors you have, the higher your chances of having a stroke. Here are some stroke risk factors you cannot control:
- Age – as you get older, your risk of stroke increases;
- Gender – stroke is more common in men;
- A family history of stroke.
What is atherosclerosis?
Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to every part or the body. They are lined by a thin layer of cells called the endothelium. The endothelium works to keep the inside of arteries toned and smooth, which keeps the blood flowing. Damage to the endothelium results in atherosclerosis. That damage is caused by high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol and leads to the formation of plaque. Atherosclerosis – hardening and narrowing of the arteries – silently and slowly blocks arteries, puts blood flow at risk.
It is a usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease – which together are called cardiovascular diseases.
What does it cause?
Atherosclerosis usually does not cause symptoms until middle or older age. But as the narrowing becomes severe, it can choke off blood flow and cause pain. Blockages can also rupture suddenly. That will cause blood to clot inside an artery at the site of the rupture. The worst happens when plaques suddenly rupture, allow blood to clot inside an artery. Blood clotting causes a stroke in the brain, a heart attack in the heart.
Risk factors for atherosclerosis
To get started, firstly consider your medical history. If you have had one of these medical conditions, you most likely have atherosclerosis:
- Angina pectoris (heart-related chest pain);
- History of a stroke or heart attack;
- Blockages in the carotid arteries (in the neck);
- Peripheral artery disease.
These conditions are considered evidence of atherosclerosis. People with diabetes are also at high risk of developing the health risks associated with atherosclerosis. People with diabetes taking cholesterol treatment are assumed to have already experienced atherosclerosis so far.
Next, tally your risk factors for atherosclerosis:
- Family history of heart attacks in your immediate family;
- High “bad” cholesterol (LDL level);
- Low “good” cholesterol (HDL level);
- Current smoking;
- High blood pressure (140/90 or greater);
Stroke and atherosclerosis
There are two types of ischemic stroke caused by blood clots, narrowing of blood vessels to the brain caused by atherosclerosis or other particles. The first type is called atherothrombotic stroke is the most common stroke. It occurs when a blood clot forms on an atherosclerotic plaque within a blood vessel in the brain and blocks blood flow to that part of the brain.
The second type is called cerebral embolism occurs when a wandering clot or some other particle, called an embolus, is carried by the bloodstream until it lodges in an artery leading to or in the brain and blocks the flow of blood. The embolism could be due to a piece of clot or plaque that broke off from an atherosclerotic plaque. However, most embolic strokes are due to blood clots that form in persons with atrial fibrillation and enter the bloodstream.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: September 23, 2016 | Last Modified: December 4, 2019
What is atherosclerosis? http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/what-is-atherosclerosis. Accessed September 23, 2016.
Are You at Risk for Atherosclerosis? http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atherosclerosis-whats-your-personal-risk. Accessed September 23, 2016.
Atherosclerosis and stroke. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/HealthyLivingAfterStroke/UnderstandingRiskyConditions/Atherosclerosis-and-Stroke_UCM_310426_Article.jsp#.V9GcvPl97IU. Accessed September 23, 2016.