Q: My dad is 54 and just had a stroke. I'm turning 30 and don't want that to happen to me. What exactly causes a stroke and how can I stay healthy?
KATHY P., Little Rock, Ark.
A: You're smart to get in front of this problem. These days, when 20 percent of strokes hit folks younger than 55, everyone needs to get on board with stroke prevention. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to protect yourself.
Stroke facts: There are three types of strokes. Ischemic stroke accounts for 87 percent of all events; it's caused by a blockage from a clot or plaque in a vessel that supplies blood to the brain. The remaining 13 percent are from hemorrhagic stroke - from a ruptured blood vessel - and transient ischemic attack, also called a ministroke, largely caused by a clot or platelet plug in your carotid artery or a clot in your heart, if you have atrial fibrillation.
Who's at risk? There are nonmodifiable genetic and age-related factors that increase the risk of stroke. But you should concentrate on your modifiable risk factors. They include hypertension, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, elevated LDL and triglyceride levels, poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity (especially belly fat), metabolic syndrome, alcohol and drug abuse and sleep apnea.
Your Stroke Busters: First, eliminate exposure to tobacco smoke, recreational drugs and excess alcohol (more than one glass of wine a day for women and two for men). Then, through diet and exercise, you can control high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, a-fib, diabetes and metabolic syndrome and even sleep apnea.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.