The Link Between Lupus and Strokes: What You Need to Know

May 26, 2023

The Link Between Lupus and Strokes: What You Need to Know

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect various organs and tissues in the body. One of the lesser-known complications of lupus is an increased risk of stroke. In this blog post, we’ll explore the connection between lupus and strokes and discuss how lupus warriors can work to manage their risk levels. 

First, it’s important to understand what a stroke is and how it occurs. A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood flow to the brain is disrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked (called an ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (called a hemorrhagic stroke). Strokes can cause brain damage and can be life-threatening, so it’s important to get timely medical care. 

Now, let’s dive into the connection between lupus and strokes. Research has shown that people with lupus are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including stroke. This increased risk is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including inflammation, damage to blood vessels, and the use of certain medications to manage lupus symptoms. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus and makes up 70% of the cases. If you have SLE, you are eight times more likely to have a stroke compared with the general public. Strokes account for about 30% of the deaths among people with SLE. 

In addition to the general risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes, there are several lupus-specific risk factors to be aware of. These include:

  • Lupus anticoagulant: This is an antibody that can increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to strokes.
  • Atherosclerosis: This is a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can increase the risk of strokes.
  • Steroid use: High doses of steroids, which are often used to manage lupus flares, can increase the risk of stroke.

What can lupus warriors do to manage their risk of stroke? Here are a few tips:

Managing Your Stroke Risk with Lupus

  • Work with your healthcare team to manage your lupus symptoms and medications.
  • Monitor your blood pressure regularly and work with your doctor to keep it within a healthy range.
  • Stop smoking and limit your alcohol consumption.
  • Stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Manage any other health conditions you may have, such as diabetes.

While strokes are a rare complication of lupus, it’s important for lupus warriors to be aware of the increased risk and take steps to manage it. By working with their healthcare team and making healthy lifestyle choices, lupus warriors can reduce their risk of stroke and improve their overall health and well-being! 

Increasing Your Physical Activity

To learn more about ways to stay physically active while living with lupus, learn about Lupus and Exercise here.

Movement is medicine! Check out the Home Workouts for Lupus Patients on Lupus LA’s YouTube Channel. From Chair Yoga and Outdoor Stretching to Strength Building and Formal Workouts, there’s something for everyone.  These special movement sessions are designed with lupus patients in mind, in order to support different patients with different abilities.