What is a Stroke?

Interruptions to the blood supply of the brain result in a stroke. It only takes minutes for brain cells to die when deprived of oxygen, so it is essential to seek treatment immediately at the earliest signs of stroke. While it is more common in older adults, it can strike at any age and without much warning. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Clogged arteries due to cholesterol or fat deposits, which cause ischemic strokes
  • High blood pressure and the use of blood thinners, which cause hemorrhagic strokes
  • Short-term clogs created by debris and partial clots, which cause temporary ischemic attacks

What are the Symptoms of a Stroke?

  • Loss of feeling and numbness down one side of the body, often isolated in the face or a single limb
  • Difficulty walking and maintaining balance when standing
  • The onset of a severe headache
  • Unusual visual effects or loss of vision, such as double vision or partial blindness
  • Difficulty with communicating or understanding words

A simple test is used to evaluate potential signs of a stroke. If someone has one arm drooping when raising them, has a smile that droops to one side, and is slurring their speech or not responding at all, they need to go to an emergency room immediately.

Stroke Causes

A stroke occurs when an artery supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked. High blood pressure, smoking cigarettes, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and medications can all cause a stroke. You also have a higher risk for it if you have a family history of stroke. Older adults (past age 55) are more likely to have a stroke than younger people and men are more likely to have a stroke than women. African Americans and non-white Hispanic Americans are affected more often than every other group in America.

A sudden brain bleed could also cause a stroke, which is called a hemorrhagic stroke. The brain then swells, putting pressure on the skull and damaging brain cells.

How is a Stroke Treated?

Fast treatment preserves brain cells, therefore limiting the damaging effects of oxygen supply interruption. Once someone with stroke symptoms arrives at the hospital, drugs are immediately administered to try and increase blood flow to the brain. Surgery is necessary in some hemorrhagic cases to stop the bleeding and control pressure. Even brief temporary attacks need immediate attention from a professional because they are warning signs of a more severe stroke in the future.

Stroke Prevention

There are several ways to prevent a stroke, some of which include exercising, refraining from smoking, decreasing your blood pressure, losing weight, and drinking, but only in moderation. If you have atrial fibrillation, treat it as it can prevent you from having a stroke.

Exercise doesn’t have to involve anything strenuous. A walk around your neighborhood block every morning or taking the stairs instead of the elevator is all you really need to do. However, try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Smoking thickens your blood and can speed up clot formation. Therefore, it’s best you find a way to quit. Your doctor may be able to recommend assistance programs that help people stop smoking. You can try nicotine patches, pills, and counseling.

Lowering your blood pressure is essential. Do this by eating fruit and vegetables each day (about four to five cups of each) and limiting or avoiding high-cholesterol foods like ice cream and cheeseburgers. Try to avoid salt, but if you absolutely can’t, limit your salt intake to a maximum of 1,500 milligrams a day (which comes out to about half a teaspoon).

Keeping your body mass index at 25 or less is best for maintaining a healthy weight. You can achieve this by committing to some form of physical activity once per day.

Drinking one to two alcoholic drinks per day is enough to lower your risk of a stroke, according to some studies. But more than that will only increase your risk immensely.