Modifiable Risk Factors for Stroke and Strategies for Stroke Prevention

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The pathophysiology of stroke is well characterized, and 9 out of 10 strokes are due to modifiable factors. However, preventive strategies thus far have been relatively ineffective in curbing the global stroke burden, which is projected to increase given the aging of the world's population and epidemiological transition in many low- to middle-income countries. In this review we will summarize our current understanding of behavioral, environmental, and metabolic stroke risk factors not covered elsewhere in this issue. Specifically, we will review the evidence for environmental and household air pollution, smoking, and alcohol use. We will subsequently provide a conceptual framework for stroke prevention strategies, categorizing them as those aimed at changing health care systems and/or provider behavior and those targeting behaviors of patients and/or their caregivers, families, and support networks. The field of stroke prevention is relatively nascent, and little is known about how to optimize health care systems so that providers prescribe evidence-based care for stroke prevention, patients have access to care to receive such services, adherence and control of risk factors are optimized, and patients are empowered to manage their own risk factors and make lifestyle changes, including eating healthy diets (high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in sodium and sugar-sweetened beverages), engaging in regular physical activity, not smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption. In the next several years, we will likely develop a better understanding of which strategies are effective for modifying vascular risk factors, and how to design and implement successful interventions. Key questions to be answered include optimal theoretical frameworks, delivery models, team composition, timing, dose, intensity, and frequency, taking into account cultural, sociodemographic, and regional differences in patient populations.

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