If you know someone who has had a stroke, you know how heartbreaking strokes can be, both during and after this medical emergency.
Unfortunately, in 2019, 6.6 million deaths worldwide were attributed to stroke and associated bleeding, and one in four stroke survivors suffered another stroke.
But what exactly is a stroke and what are the signs of it?
What causes a stroke and who is most at risk?
We'll answer your questions and help you calm down by teaching you the facts about stroke prevention.
What is a stroke
A stroke is a general term used to describe an emergency that occurs when oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain stops. When that happens, the brain cells begin to die, even for a few minutes.
At this point, some brain functions are lost (either temporarily or permanently) and the ability to do the following things may be impaired:
What are the signs of a stroke?
Recognizing the signs of a stroke is not difficult as the symptoms are usually obvious, come on suddenly, and often only appear on one side of the body.
Signs that someone is having a stroke include:
One side of the face is drooping. Can the person smile?
One arm and / or one leg is weak or numb. Can the person lift it?
Speech is indistinct. Can the person repeat a simple sentence correctly?
One or both eyes have trouble seeing. Can you focus on one object?
Strong headache. Is there no known cause?
Walking is difficult and unbalanced. Does the person walk like they are dizzy?
Confusion. Are you having trouble understanding what is happening?
If you experience any of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately.
What can cause a stroke?
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Two things can cause a stroke. First, it can be caused by a blockage in blood flow to the brain.
This can happen when a build-up and hardening of fatty deposits (called plaque) narrows the arteries.
The second cause is when an artery leaks blood into the brain, which can happen when high blood pressure ruptures the artery wall.
It is also instructive to know the three different types of stroke and their causes:
Ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the brain.
A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by an artery in the brain that leaks or ruptures blood, putting too much pressure on the brain cells. This can happen either in the brain or around the brain.
A transient ischemic attack (also called a mini-stroke) is caused by blocking blood flow to the brain for as little as five minutes or less, which limits the damage that can be done.
What foods can cause a stroke?
While eating certain foods doesn't immediately cause a stroke, there are some that, if consumed in excess over a long period of time, can increase your risk of stroke.
Salt (frozen pizza, canned chilli, etc.)
Sugar (for example, pastries or ice cream with toppings)
Artificially sweetened drinks (such as soda and iced tea)
Alcohol (beer, cocktails, etc.)
Saturated fats (i.e. fried foods or processed meats)
Trans fats (snack cake, some microwaveable popcorn, etc.)
Avoiding these high-risk foods will help lower the body's BMI (body mass index), blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. This, combined with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, can greatly aid stroke prevention.
Who is most at risk of having a stroke?
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Anyone can have a stroke, but the top five risk factors are:
Age: Strokes are most common in people over the age of 65, and the likelihood of suffering a double every 10 years after age 55.
Sex: More men will have strokes during their lifetime, but since women typically live longer, their risk increases accordingly.
Races: African Americans are particularly at risk (as this population has more high blood pressure).
Genetic factors: Things like a family history of stroke or a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol are genetic factors.
Medical history: After you've had a previous stroke, the chances increase significantly.
Health conditions that increase the risk of stroke include:
Other factors that increase your risk include:
How to reduce your risk of stroke
While there are no safe measures to prevent stroke, there are many ways you can reduce your chances of having a stroke.
It can be scary to learn about stroke and frustrating to learn that many stroke prevention tips are beyond your control, such as age and family history. But you have options to improve your eating and exercise habits, take nutritional supplements to prevent stroke, quit smoking, speak to your doctor about your concerns, and keep an eye out for stroke symptoms so you can get help quickly.
After all, it's one of the greatest things we can do for ourselves and those we love.
About the author:
Brooke Cade is a freelance writer with multiple publications. When she's not writing, Brooke is eager to learn more about helping with home improvement, DIY projects, and helping her local coffee shop.