What You Need To Know About Your Stroke Risk

Photo: Jeff Christensen/AP/REX/Shutterstock.
On Thursday, February 28, Riverdale and Beverly Hills, 90210 actor Luke Perry was hospitalized following a massive stroke at his home in Sherman Oaks, CA. Just days later, Perry died on Monday morning at 52 years old, a representative for the actor told the Associated Press.
Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. One in 20 deaths, or about 140,000 casualties, are attributed to strokes each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Studies suggest that stroke rates have increased in recent years, particularly in young people ages 35 to 44. Those statistics sound scary, and strokes are very serious. But in light of Perry's untimely death, it's important to understand all of the factors that influence someone's stroke risk.
A stroke is a disease that occurs when a blood clot blocks the blood supply to the brain, or a blood vessel in the brain bursts, according to the CDC. This causes blood to spill around in the brain, which eventually kills brain cells, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Depending on the area of the brain affected by the stroke, it can impact a person's speech, communication, emotions, and movement. Treatment typically varies depending on the type of stroke, but is a matter of controlling the risk factors that could lead to another one.
The main risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure (defined as at or above 140/90 mmHg), according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Age is another key factor; nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, and the risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55, according to the Stroke Center. At 52 years old, Perry may seem "too young" for a stroke, but even "young people" including children and babies can suffer strokes.
Interestingly, young men are more likely than young women to get strokes, although a variety of factors can influence a person's risk, according to the NHLBI. Taking hormonal birth control pills and getting migraines with an aura, for example, can slightly increase a woman's risk of having a stroke. Those affected by atrial fibrillation are also at an increased risk of stroke, and an estimated one in six strokes are caused by AFib, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and taking cocaine and illegal amphetamines are a few examples of controllable risk factors, according tot he NHLBI.
Ultimately, the number of risk factors that you have determines your risk of having a stroke — but everyone is different. If you're alarmed by this news, there are online assessments that you can take to determine your own personal stroke risk. You can also talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about steps you can take to reduce the possibility that you might suffer a stroke. For example, staying physically active and eating fruits and vegetables are associated with a decreased risk of stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.
So, as fans and people close to Perry mourn his loss, the tragic story of his death serves as a sobering reminder that strokes can affect anyone.

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