According to the American Heart Association, almost 800,000 people every year suffer a stroke. In fact, every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. While stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability, it’s also the leading preventable cause of disability.
What Causes a Stroke?
There are two types of stroke: ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic strokes account for around 87 percent of all cases, and they occur when a blood vessel carrying oxygen to the brain becomes obstructed. These obstructions are usually due to the development of fatty deposits clogging the vessel walls, which is known as atherosclerosis.
The other 13 percent of strokes are known as hemorrhagic stroke, which results when a weakened vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. The blood then accumulates, compressing the brain tissue.
Additionally, there are transient ischemic strokes (TIA), which are known as “mini-strokes” caused by a temporary blockage. This type of stroke does not cause brain damage, but it may induce stroke-like symptoms lasting several minutes up to a few hours.
Stroke Prevention Tips
While some of the risk factors for stroke include age, gender and family history, lifestyle and habits also play a main role in an increased risk for stroke. As up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, managing chronic conditions and living a healthy lifestyle are key in reducing the risk.
Managing Chronic Health Conditions
One of the first tips to prevent a stroke is to simply effectively control any health conditions you have already, including:
- Managing high blood pressure by getting it checked regularly.
- Controlling type 2 diabetes by managing blood sugar levels.
- Getting proper medical treatment for heart conditions like coronary artery disease atrial fibrillation.
- Treating circulation problems like atherosclerosis with proper medications or surgery.
- Reducing high cholesterol levels that cause blockage in the arteries.
Changing Lifestyle Habits
The second controllable factor in stroke prevention is to make healthy lifestyle choices. These lifestyle factors can also have a positive effect on the medical conditions mentioned above, and include the following:
- Quitting smoking and drink in moderation. Smokers are at a higher risk for stroke, and alcohol can raise blood pressure.
- Staying physically active. Exercise helps people maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure, and a recent study shows that those who engage in regular physical activity five or more times each week have a reduced risk for stroke.
- Eating a nutritious diet. Healthy eating habits offer a variety of benefits like reducing the risk of many chronic diseases, also assist in weight loss and maintaining an ideal weight.
It’s also important to be able to recognize the signs of stroke so medical treatment can be given right away. Stroke symptoms can come on suddenly and without warning, and a person doesn’t have to be exhibiting all the signs to be having a stroke.