In addition to the many common stroke risk factors, any other heart- and blood vessel-related medical conditions you have can also influence your risk of having a stroke. These include:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Heart Failure
- Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
- Valve Disease
- Atrial Fibrillation
This article discusses the basics of these conditions, how they affect your stroke risk, and what you can do to prevent stroke if you have them. Click the links above to skip to a specific section.
What is it?
Coronary artery disease is a type of heart disease. The coronary arteries are blood vessels located along the surface of the heart that carry blood and oxygen to the heart muscle (See The Heart & Circulation). When these arteries become clogged with fatty deposits called plaque, it is called coronary artery disease (CAD). Plaque forms in the arteries over many years in a process called atherosclerosis. Clogged arteries can keep the heart from getting enough blood and oxygen and can cause chest pain ( angina). If a blood clot forms, it can suddenly cut off blood flow in the artery and cause a heart attack.
Coronary artery disease may also be referred to as coronary heart disease (CHD), ischemic heart disease, or atherosclerotic heart disease.
For much more information, visit our section on coronary artery disease.
How is it related to stroke?
Stroke and CAD are closely linked because they are often caused by the same disease process: atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis occurs gradually over time and throughout the body, so if you have buildup in the arteries of your heart it is likely the process is happening in the arteries of your brain and limbs as well. When a clot forms and lodges in one of the arteries of your heart, it causes a heart attack. If a clot forms in the brain, or forms in the heart during a heart attack and travels to the brain, the result is a stroke.
How does it affect my stroke risk?
Having CAD puts you at increased risk for having a stroke. Among women who have a heart attack, 6% of those aged 40 to 69 and 11% of those 70 or older will suffer a stroke within 5 years.1 The more widespread and severe your CAD is, the greater your stroke risk. One study of patients with stable CAD found that the worse a patient's chest pain was, the greater their chance of having a stroke.2 Your likelihood of developing a stroke also depends on specific characteristics of the plaque in your arteries: some plaques are more stable than others. The less stable the plaque, the more likely it is to rupture, causing a dangerous clot that can lead to a stroke. Studies are currently underway to find ways to test the stability of plaque and better predict your risk.
In addition to the risks associated with atherosclerosis, having CAD that damages your heart muscle also makes you more likely to develop other heart disorders, such as atrial fibrillation or heart failure, that increase your risk of stroke.3
What can I do to prevent stroke?
If you have CAD, you may need a procedure such as bypass surgery or angioplasty to open the blocked vessel and restore blood flow to the heart, as well as medication to prevent future events from happening. Sticking to your prescribed treatment will prevent you from having another heart attack, reduce the tendency of your blood to clot, and keep your heart functioning as well as possible, all of which are important to minimize your risk of stroke. For more information, see our Treatment & Recovery section.
Stroke and CAD also share many common risk factors that make you more likely to suffer an event. Making the necessary lifestyle changes and taking medications as necessary to prevent or manage your CAD risk factors, particularly smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, will reduce your chances of having another heart attack while also reducing your risk of stroke.