It seems like strokes strike out of nowhere. One moment you feel normal and healthy… and then you’re hit with a severe headache, numbness and an inability to speak. How in the world could you ever see something like that coming?
But despite how sudden strokes seem, there are often clues that show a stroke could be on the horizon years before it happens. If you pay attention to these clues, they can help you manage your stroke risk. What clues should you be keeping your eyes peeled for?
The biggest one is metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that puts you at risk for other diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and, you guessed it, stroke. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you must have three or more of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Excess body fat around the waist
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Abnormal triglyceride levels
Now, a lot of people in the U.S. have metabolic syndrome… something like 47 million. But many of them may not realize how strong the connection is between this cluster of conditions and stroke. And this could be putting them at serious risk…
In fact, recent research shows the more severe your metabolic syndrome, the more severe your stroke risk. The good news? Researchers have used this research to develop a simple tool you can use to instantly gauge your metabolic syndrome and stroke risks.
Try this metabolic syndrome and stroke risk calculator
Researchers from the University of Virginia developed an online calculator you can use to gauge your metabolic syndrome and, consequently, your stroke risks.
They developed the calculator after reviewing the health records of more than 13,000 people in prior studies. Of those people, 709 had ischemic strokes over a period of about 18.6 years.
Researchers took the data they had and used it to develop “Z scores” for study participants. These “Z scores” determined how severe their metabolic syndrome was. They then compared those “Z scores” to stroke risk, and here’s what they determined…
People with higher “Z scores” were more likely to have strokes. That much was crystal clear. But there was a group that was especially at risk…
The highest association between metabolic syndrome and risk for ischemic stroke occurred in white women. Researchers also found a stronger connection between individual metabolic syndrome risk factors (like high blood pressure) and stroke risk in white women.
Not sure where your risk falls when it comes to metabolic syndrome and stroke? Here’s the link to the tool, so you can calculate your own “Z score” and figure it out. Just make sure you have some information from your last doctor’s appointment handy, like your triglyceride levels, HDL levels, fasting glucose and systolic blood pressure. You’ll also need your current weight and waist circumference.
Tackle metabolic syndrome to tame stroke risk
Now you have a simple way to gauge stroke risk… which is great. But you also have a simple way to lower stroke risk. Metabolic syndrome is very much a lifestyle disease. Diet and exercise habits play a huge part. So, if you want to fend off metabolic syndrome and lower your stroke risk, start eating healthier and exercising more. Here’s what Mark DeBoer, M.D., the lead researcher on this study, had to say about it…
“In case there are still individuals out there debating whether to start exercising or eating a healthier diet, this study provides another wake-up call to motivate us all toward lifestyle changes.”
So, start exercising daily. And ditch the processed foods filled with sugar and refined carbs. Embrace whole fruits, vegetables, grains and high-quality proteins, so you can reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and protect yourself from the surprise that no one wants… a stroke.
This online calculator can predict your stroke risk, study finds — EurekAlert!
Stroke — Stanford Health Care.
Metabolic Syndrome — Mayo Clinic.