Information About The Prevention Of Stroke

Stroke is among the leading causes of neurological disability and death. Learn how to prevent it.

Stroke is among the leading causes of neurological disability and death. Strokes occur when the flow of blood to the brain is disrupted. This interruption is usually caused by atherosclerosis or hypertension.

There are several types of stroke although most fall into two broad categories-ischemic and hemorrhagic.

ISCHEMIC STROKE

Most strokes fall into this broad category, in which the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted. Ischemic strokes are divided into other sub-categories:

(a) Embolic strokes-In this type of stroke, a tiny clot or other material is dislodged from an artery and is carried into smaller brain vessels. The clot lodges in a brain artery and blocks blood flow.

(b) Thrombotic strokes-These occur when a blood clot attaches to the plaque build-up within the arteries and blocks blood flow to the brain.

(c) Lacunar strokes-This type of stroke occurs rarely and is not usually severe. The small vessels deep within the brain malfunction as a result of a blockage or other cause.

HEMORRHAGIC STROKES

A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by arterial bleeding or leakage within the brain. The leaking blood causes stress to the surrounding brain tissue and damage occurs. Brain cells not surrounding the rupture suffer blood deprivation and are damaged as well. Hemorraghic strokes are most often caused by high blood pressure. The constant pressure exerted weakens blood vessel walls and results in brain hemorrhage. These strokes may also be caused by some medications which constrict blood vessels.

Aneurysms can also cause hemorrhagic strokes. An aneurysm is a weak point in an arterial wall which becomes thin. When an aneurysm ruptures, bleeding into the brain occurs, sometimes causing death.

Another, although rare, cause of hemorrhagic stroke is arteriovenous malformation, in which blood leaks into the brain and destroys tissue. This leakage of blood is a result of a congenital malformation of blood vessels.

TRANSIENT ISCHEMIC ATTACK (TIA)

Transient ischemic attacks are also known as "mini-strokes" or TIA's. These episodes occur when blood flow is temporarily cut off to the brain. The symptoms are the same as stroke except that symptoms of a TIA can appear and disappear. Since the symptoms are not followed by the prolonged impairment of some strokes, many people ignore them. Experiencing a TIA is a serious matter and a doctor should be consulted whenever one occurs. A TIA should be seen as a signal of an impending stroke since almost 15% of strokes occur after a TIA. These "mini-strokes" can occur suddenly with impaired vision, unsteadiness, dizziness, difficult communicating, etc. just as with a stroke.

Awareness of the risk factors for stroke and learning to control those factors is important. There are some high risk factors, however, that are not under an individual's control. The high risk group includes:

---those having a family history of stroke before the age of 65

---those over 55 years of age

---those who belong to certain ethnic groups-Chinese, Black, Aboriginal

Males normally experience stroke much earlier in life while the risk for women increases with those over the age of 55.



Below is a list of some of the risk factors and actions that individuals may take to prevent strokes.

(a) Stop smoking. Nicotine promotes narrowing of the blood vessels, which can impede normal circulation.

(b) Monitor blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure puts stress on blood vessels and the heart.

(c) Maintain healthy body weight level and include regular exercise in the daily routine.

(d) Eat a healthful diet, reducing the amounts of those foods which contain saturated fat, which can clog arteries.

(e) Have blood sugar tested. Ahigh level of blood sugar can harm arteries.

(f) Eliminate drug and/or alcohol abuse, which often causes stroke in young adults.

(g) Reduce mental and emotional stress. Stress causes blood vessels to consrict, making heart and blood vessels overwork. Consider meditation or other relaxation techniques.

(h) Unless advised otherwise by a doctor, take one aspirin (regular or coated) every other day. This practice will help to aid blood flow. Coated aspirin is best if suffering from any gastrointestinal problems.

(i) If a family history shows artherosclerosis, do not use oral contraceptives, which can increase the risk of stroke.

Diet is very important to decrease the risk for stroke. Among the best foods for stroke prevention are those containing soy(tofu, tempeh), the B vitamins (spinach, bananas, wheat bran), fiber (oat bran, carrots, onions) and beta-carotene (dark green, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables).

If any of the following occur, they may be signs that you are having a stroke. Call 911 and/or obtain medical attention immediately:

---sudden severe headache

---sudden vision loss, double vision, loss of sight in one eye

---dizziness, difficulty maintaining balance

---sudden weakness or numbness and/or tingling on face, arm or leg

---difficulty speaking or understanding speech

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