As people get older, it becomes increasingly essential to take special precautions to maintain wellness, but it's also important to do all you can to reduce the risk of stroke. This condition happens when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or so low that the cranial tissue is deprived of oxygen. Brain cells begin to die within minutes and, without immediate medical attention, it can lead to severe brain damage and even death.
Types of stroke
Strokes can range from minor to severe. The severity of a stroke varies by where it occurs, how much of the brain is affected and how large the clot is, which determines how much blood is actually reaching the brain. There are generally two categories of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke is the most common and happens when a thrombus, also known as a blood clot, forms somewhere in the body, breaks off and floats through the bloodstream and up to the brain, where it stops blood from flowing to part of the grey matter.
- Hemorrhagic stroke is less common but just as deadly. It happens when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain ruptures, filling the area beneath the skull with blood. This can also occur when a defective artery bursts.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can suffer from a stroke, and some of the risk factors are hereditary. In fact, people with a family history of this condition are at a greater risk and, as adults get older, their chances of having a stroke continue to increase. Additionally, men are generally more prone than women, particularly those who are divorced. High blood pressure and cholesterol as well as diabetes are all health issues that put you at a greater risk. People who are overweight or obese and those who smoke cigarettes tend to be more likely to have stroke. Additionally, note that suffering from stroke is a precursor of having another: 42 percent of men and 24 percent of women have recurrent strokes within five years.
How to prevent stroke
While strokes are a serious and often deadly condition, the good news is that they can be prevented. While some factors are unavoidable, there's plenty you can do to reduce your risk. Simply taking on a healthy lifestyle, such as eating right, drinking alcohol in moderation and getting plenty of exercise. Many of the steps you can take are the same as those for avoiding heart disease, such as:
- Balancing your blood pressure: Keeping your blood pressure under control is one of the main things you can do to prevent stroke. That's because high blood pressure can cause damage to the arteries, which makes it more likely for an artery to narrow, clog or rupture. Managing hypertension may involve cutting down on sodium, increasing your potassium, losing weight and starting a medication regimen as prescribed by your doctor.
- Reducing your cholesterol and saturated fat intake: A diet that is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat can reduce the amount of plaque in your arteries, allowing for better blood flow to the brain. Some adults find that they can't control their cholesterol through dietary changes alone. In such cases, a physician may prescribe special medications for exactly this purpose.
- Quitting smoking: People who use tobacco are at significantly higher risk of stroke, as are those exposed to second-hand smoke. Beneficiaries who are having trouble quitting may turn to their Medicare Part B plans for cessation counseling.
- Keeping diabetes in check: The National Stroke Association reported that diabetics are four times more likely to suffer from stroke compared to someone without the blood-glucose condition. The link between these two conditions lies within high blood pressure – diabetes patients often suffer from hypertension, which increases the risk of stroke.
Warning signs of stroke
Another essential step in preventing stroke is to recognize the signs so that you can get immediate medical attention before it even occurs. If you feel yourself experiencing any of these issues, call 911 immediately:
- Difficulty speaking or confusion, as well as slurred speech.
- Problems walking, such as stumbling, loss of balance or coordination and dizziness.
- Numbness or inability to move the face or limbs, especially on one side of the body.
- Difficulty seeing, such as blackened, blurred or double vision, out of one or both eyes.
- Sudden and severe headache often coupled with vomiting or nausea.
If you believe that someone around you may be suffering from stroke, there's a handy acronym to help you make the right moves and potentially save his or her life:
- Face: Request that the person make a smile and check to see if one side of the mouth droops.
- Arms: Ask him or her to raise both arms and take notice if one of the limbs drifts downward.
- Speech: Request that he or she repeat a basic phrase and pay attention for slurred or garbled speech.
- Time: If the person displays any of these signs, it may be a stroke. Call 911 right away – every moment means the loss of more crucial brain cells.