Excerpted and adapted from "When Risk Factors Unite," appearing in Stroke Connection Magazine January/February 2005 (Science update May 2008).Several types of heart disease are risk factors for stroke. Likewise, stroke is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease and stroke share many of the same risk factors such as high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese.
Individuals with coronary heart disease, angina, or who have had a heart attack due to atherosclerosis, have more than twice the risk of stroke than those who haven’t. If you have atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries you are very likely to have atherosclerosis in other parts of your body.
Atherosclerosis is often referred to as "hardening of the arteries." The word comes from the Greek words athero (meaning gruel or paste) and sclerosis (hardness).
In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricle.
Problems at the Pump
Heart failure (HF) can also increase stroke risk. HF is a condition in which the heart cannot pump out all the blood that returns to it.
Converging Risk Factors
Common risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke that can be controlled or treated include high LDL cholesterol levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese.
The Heart/Brain Connection
What's good for your heart is also good for your brain. Learn which healthy habits are important for both.
What You Can Do
Although heart disease and stroke account for the vast majority of deaths each year in America, there are things you can do to lessen your risk.