Stroke

What Is Stroke? Can It Be Prevented?

By Dr. Sonali Chaturvedi(MBBS), DocOnline | Posted on October 31, 2018

The answer is YES!!!!

A stroke is a "brain attack". It can happen to anyone and can strike at any time. It occurs when blood flow to any area of the brain is obstructed and the oxygen supply is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and they begin to die. Due to the death of brain cells during a stroke, the functional abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost. A stroke requires immediate medical care and is potentially deadly. It can affect several parts of the body even after the event is over.

Globally, stroke is the commonest cause of mortality after coronary artery disease. Also, it is the commonest cause of chronic adult disability. The lifetime risk of stroke after 55 years of age is 1 in 5 for women and 1 in 6 for men.

As compared to western industrialized countries, the stroke incidence in India is much higher. Considering the Indian scenario, at present, the prevention of stroke is the best option through control and/or avoiding risk factors of stroke.

Types Of Stroke

Ischemic stroke

Most strokes (87%) are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs due to the blocking of the blood that is flowing through the artery and supplying oxygen.

The blockages are caused by blood clots, which often lead to ischemic strokes.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

When an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open), a hemorrhagic stroke is said to have occurred. The blood that leaks out, puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is known as a “mini-stroke.” This is different from the major types of stroke as the blood flowing to the brain is blocked for only a short duration, which is usually not more than 5 minutes. A TIA is a warning sign of a future stroke and is a medical emergency, just like a major stroke.

Effects Of Stroke

1. Memory loss : Damage to the front part of the brain may cause changes in intelligence, movement, logic, personality traits, and thinking patterns

2. Visual problems : Changes in vision can happen if the parts of the brain that communicate with the eyes get damaged.

3. Paralysis : A stroke normally effects one side of the brain. The left side of the brain controls the right part of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left part of the body. If there’s a lot of damage to the left side of the brain, one may experience paralysis on the right side of the body.

Foot drop is a common type of weakness or paralysis that makes it difficult to lift the front part of the foot

4. Difficulty in eating and swallowing due to paralysis of facial muscles.

5. Speech related defects: Damage to the left side of the brain can cause difficulty in speaking and understanding language. Besides, there can also be memory problems, trouble in reasoning, organizing, thinking mathematically/analytically, and behavior changes.

6. Various systemic effects are seen due to diminished blood supply to the vital areas.

Risk Factors For Stroke

  • Age is an important nonmodifiable risk factor for stroke. The mean age of stroke onset in India is 63 years.
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypertension
  • Tobacco use
  • Low hemoglobin, Low HDL; LDL ratio were the most important risk factors of ischemic stroke.
  • Low consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Psychological stress
  • Alcoholism
  • Oral contraceptive use
How To Prevent Stroke?

In contrast to Western countries where there has been a steady decline in stroke over the past 30 years, India is currently facing the challenge of a high stroke incidence. The best way of reducing damage caused by a stroke is to get medical treatment as soon as possible. The presence of symptoms for a long term and their recovery will depend on the areas of the brain that are affected.

Presently, prevention of stroke is the best option considering the Indian scenario and this can be achieved through control and/or avoiding the risk factors of stroke.

Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented by adopting healthy lifestyle changes. Some of the healthy lifestyle choices that one can incorporate are:

1. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk, if it is not controlled. To keep the blood pressure in check, it should be around 135/90. One should reduce the salt in the diet to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).

How to achieve it?

  • Avoid high-cholesterol foods such as burgers, cheese, and ice cream.
  • Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Exercise — at least 30 minutes of physical activity in a day will do you good.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke.
2. Maintain Healthy Weight.

Not maintaining proper weight leads to obesity and also other complications like high blood pressure and diabetes. All these increase the chances of experiencing a stroke. Even losing as little as 10 pounds can have a big impact on your reducing the chances of your stroke risk.

How to achieve it?

  • Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
  • Increase the amount of exercise you do through activities like walking, running, swimming, playing tennis. The idea is to engage in some form of physical activity every single day.
3. Exercise more

Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.

Exercising at moderate intensity for at least five days in a week can do good. Take staircase instead of elevators.

4. If you drink — do it in moderation

Drinking a little alcohol may decrease your risk of stroke. Studies have shown that if you have about one drink per day, your risk tends to be lower. However, as you start drinking more than two drinks per day, the risk of a stroke shoots up considerably.

5. Treat atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. It carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke and should be taken seriously. You may need to take an anticoagulant drug (blood thinner) such as warfarin (Coumadin) or one of the newer direct-acting anticoagulant drugs to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation.

6. Treat diabetes/Keep blood sugar under control

Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, leading to clot formation inside them. So, keep your blood sugar under control.

How to achieve it?

  • Keep a check on your blood sugar and monitor it as directed by your doctor.
  • Diet, exercise, and take prescribed medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.
7. Quit smoking

Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly.

Use quit-smoking aids like nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine.

8. Stress Management

Chronic stress and having a type a personality remains strong risk factors for stroke. Managing stress well becomes the key to control diabetes and high blood pressure which in turn are strongly responsible for stroke.

How to Manage Stress?

  • Meditation - 30 min of meditation everyday keeps the stress in check.
  • Exercise: Any type of physical activity is the key stress buster with surge of Happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
  • Cultivating a hobby
  • Adequate sleep.
9. By improving diet.

The best way to avoid suffering from a stroke is to eat a plant-based diet centered around vegetables, lentils, beans, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and nuts.

Nuts : adding Handful of nuts to our diet per day seemed to cut the risk of stroke in half.

Coffee and green tea: One cup of coffee and two to three cups of green tea has been found to reduce the risk of stroke

Food rich in antioxidants, flavonoids like citrus fruits reduce inflammation of the arteries and thus formation of plaques in the vessels.

Magnesium rich foods

Garlic and tomatoes : Tomatoes are rich in lycopenes are found helpful to prevent stroke.

Stroke prevention can start today. Protect yourself and avoid stroke, regardless of your age or family history.

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