Luke Perry RIP
Learn about the risk factors and how to prevent stroke
A stroke occurs when either too much blood or too little blood disrupts blood flow to part of the brain. This deprives brain tissue of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes brain cells begin to die and the result is a loss of brain function. Brain damage from strokes can be minimized if they are treated promptly, but it’s common to mistake signs of a stroke for other health problems, which delays treatment.
There are several types of stroke that present a wide range of symptoms:
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is an early warning that a stroke (also called a brain attack) may be coming. A TIA is a temporary stroke. It causes no lasting damage. But the effects of a stroke, if it happens, can be very serious and lasting. If you think you are having symptoms of a TIA or stroke–even if they don’t last–get medical help right away.
- Ischemic Stroke: Ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that supplies the brain is greatly narrowed or blocked. This can be caused by a buildup of plaque. It can also occur when small pieces of plaque or blood clot (called emboli) break off into the bloodstream.
- Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain bursts (hemorrhages). This spills blood into the surrounding tissue. This type of stroke often happens suddenly, with little warning. It is one of the most serious of all types of strokes.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke: Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. This lets blood spill into nearby brain tissue, which damages the cells. Other brain cells die because their normal blood supply is cut off.
Risk factors for stroke
Certain health and lifestyle issues–called risk factors–increase your chances of having a stroke. The leading risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. But there are many other factors that also put you at risk. Risk factors are different for each person.
Effects of a stroke on the brain and body
When blood supply is cut off from the brain, cells begin to die from lack of oxygen. Within minutes, skills such as reasoning, speech, and arm or leg movement may be lost. The type of skills and the amount of loss depend on two things: which part of the brain was affected and how much tissue was damaged.
Preventing another stroke with a healthier lifestyle
Breaking old habits can be hard. But when your health is at stake, it’s never too late to make changes for the better. Some lifestyle changes might be easy for you. Others might be tough. If you need help, talk with your health care provider, family, or friends.
Make Healthy Changes
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, the time to quit is now! There’s no more time for excuses. Smoking raises blood pressure and damages arteries—both of which can lead to a stroke. To stop smoking, ask your healthcare provider for help. Join a stop-smoking program. Make a list of reasons to quit and read it daily.
- Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke. Alcohol can also react with certain medications. Ask your healthcare provider if it’s safe for you to drink alcohol.
- Get support. A stroke can leave you feeling frustrated or depressed. Don’t ignore your feelings, but don’t dwell on them either. Focus on what you can do. Talking to family, friends, your healthcare provider, or clergy can also help. Join a group for stroke survivors, if there is one in your community.
- Reduce stress. Stress can make your heart work harder and raise blood pressure. To reduce stress, try to let go of daily annoyances. Ask yourself if problems will still matter a week from now. Getting proper rest can also help. Finally, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help when you need it.
If You Have High Blood Pressure
One of the most important things you can do to prevent another stroke is to keep your blood pressure under control. If you have high blood pressure:
- Take all your medications as directed.
- Get regular exercise.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about limiting fat and salt in your diet.
- Check your blood pressure regularly. Write down your numbers and bring them to checkups with your healthcare provider.
Manage Other Health Problems
Strokes are often closely related to certain health problems. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. If you have any of these conditions, it’s more important than ever to keep them under control. Do this by taking any prescribed medications and having regular checkups. Keep in mind, too, that the same healthy lifestyle choices that prevent stroke will also help control these health problems.
For Family and Friends
It’s much harder for your loved one to make lifestyle changes if he or she is feeling low. So be on the lookout for sadness, depression, or hopelessness. These feelings are not uncommon after a stroke. Talk to the healthcare provider if you have concerns.