How to Protect Yourself

If someone in your immediate family (i.e., a parent, grandparent, sister or brother) has a stroke, tell your doctor as much as you can about the specifics of when and how it happened. If you know what type of stroke your relative had—an ischemic (clotting) stroke, a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke, or a mini-stroke (TIA)—it may clue your doctor in as to what particular risk factors you need to especially watch out for, says Ralph Sacco, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Miami and the 2010-2011 president of the American Heart Association.

Know your relative’s cardiovascular-health history, as well, and at what age he or she had the stroke: "Some experts believe that if a parent has a stroke at a younger age, that puts you at even greater risk —especially if that parent was in really good health." says Sacco. "That might mean there are other genetic factors that we don’t know about yet."

Also ask your doctor how often you should be tested for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Protect yourself from further risk by staying physically active, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. "Having a parent who’s had a stroke is not a death sentence," says Sacco. "If you know your risk early enough, you may be better able to control those factors that your parent wasn’t able to."

By Amanda MacMillan

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Sacco, Ralph. President, American Heart Association (2011); Professor of Neurology, Epidemiology & Public Health, Human Genetics, and Neurosurgery; and Chairman, Department of Neurology, Jackson Memorial Hospital Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. Interview: June 2011.

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Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 19 Jun 2011

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015