A stroke can happen to anyone, and it often occurs without any warning. However, there are some factors that can tell you whether you are at higher risk of having a stroke. There are also some useful tests, such as the carotid Doppler scan, that can provide a clearer picture of your stroke risk.
Risk Factors for Stroke
Strokes are more common in people over 55, but age isn’t the only risk factor. A stroke can happen to anyone. You can also be at higher risk of stroke because of your genes, if there’s a history of stroke in your family or you have a genetic condition like sickle cell disease that affects blood flow. Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation can also increase your risk of having a stroke, although getting treatment can help prevent problems. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and being overweight can all increase your risk of stroke too. Eating an unhealthy diet and not getting enough exercise can also put you at risk. However, these risk factors can often be reduced through simple lifestyle changes.
Tests for Stroke Risk
Many simple tests can help to assess your risk of having a stroke. These include blood tests to check your cholesterol levels, a blood pressure check, and various cardiac tests. You may have them during routine screening or if your doctor thinks you are at risk. One of the more specialised tests for stroke risk is the carotid Doppler scan. This is a special type of ultrasound that is used to measure the blood flow through the carotid arteries, which supply your brain. Thickening or narrowing of these arteries can increase your risk of stroke. The carotid Doppler scan can detect these problems, even if there are no other signs or symptoms that you are at risk. Your doctor can then recommend lifestyle changes or treatments to help manage the risk.