Study Reveals A Startling Number Of Stroke Patients Had Previously Undiagnosed Risk Factors

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked, in the case of an ischemic stroke, or when bleeding suddenly occurs in the brain, in the case of a hemorrhagic stroke (via the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute).  The risk factors for having a stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high LDL cholesterol levels, smoking, brain aneurysms, certain viral infections, race, age, sex, and family history. Other factors that might put you at risk are anxiety, depression, stress, air pollution, sleep apnea, migraines, being on blood thinners, not getting enough physical activity, drinking alcohol, and obesity.

Some factors such as age, race, sex, and family history are out of your control. That said, many factors are controllable. The American Heart Association reports that although high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke, it is controllable. Other factors such as smoking, diabetes, diet, physical inactivity, and obesity are also controllable.

Being aware of your risk factors, and trying to control the ones that you can, may help reduce your risk of stroke. But an even more important reason to be aware of your risk factors comes from new research showing that many people who experienced ischemic strokes had undiagnosed underlying conditions.

Who's at greater risk?

The study, presented at the European Academy of Neurology Congress in Vienna, showed that 67.7% of those who suffered a stroke had underlying conditions. Researchers looked at the medical records of 4,354 patients who had strokes from 2003 to 2018. They found that 1,125 of these patients had major risk factors that were undiagnosed.

61.4% of the patients had dyslipidemia, which involves high cholesterol or triglyceride levels. High blood pressure was the second most common condition, occurring in 23.7% of patients. 10.2% of those examined had atrial fibrillation (via Medical News Today).

Those at greater risk of undiagnosed risk factors included women under the age of 55 who used contraceptives, and older people who smoked. In contrast, people on blood thinners were less likely to have an undiagnosed risk factor, regardless of body mass index. Reasons for undetected underlying factors range from a lack of preventive care to the fact that some factors, such as high blood pressure, often have no outward symptoms, per Medical News Today.

The good news is that high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and atrial fibrillation are treatable. Stroke neurologist Jason Tarpey told Medical News Today that getting checkups and following the best protocol for each risk factor can reduce the risk of stroke.