What Is Stroke? Signs, Quick Facts & Prevention
According to the Harvard Medical School, the term “stroke” is coined due to the reaction it causes which appears like a frightening bolt out of the blue and it certainly feels that way when it happens. It causes not only temporary disableness but some experience a long-term permanent loss of function depending on which part of the brain the clot has occurred.
In this article, we explain in detail what a stroke is, signs of a stroke, and 3 simple ways you can prevent yourself from getting a stroke.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke happens when blood flow stops running to part(s) of the brain. The consequence is almost instant because the blood clot cuts off the oxygen supply and brain cells begin dying within minutes.
Stoke happens due to a blood clot or multiple blood clots. But, a blood clot doesn’t happen suddenly like how we fall sick due to flu or similar other diseases. For a stroke to occur it takes a decade-long development due to slow but steady damage to blood vessels, which causes the growth of artery-clogging plaque, or otherwise known as atrial fibrillation. When this damage occurs and develops over a certain stage it is almost impossible to avoid a stroke by fighting arterial corrosion.
Stroke accounts for almost 135,000 deaths each year and ranks as the 4th cause of death in the United States. A study from American Heart Association shows that there are more than six million stroke survivors in the United States.
Quick Facts about Stroke in the US
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a study report on Stroke in the United States lays out the following metrics –
- 1 in every 6 deaths from cardiovascular disease was due to stroke in the year 2018.
- Someone in the United States is experiencing a stroke every 40 seconds.
- Every 4 minutes, someone loses their life to stroke.
- Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States encounter a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes and 185,000 strokes are encountered for the second time.
- The risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks as for whites, and blacks have the highest death rate.
What are the Signs of a Stroke?
There are two main types of stroke –
- Ischemic stroke: This type is more common and occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery blood vessel in the brain. In some cases, the clot forms in the heart or in an artery that carries blood to the brain, and eventually when the clot breaks off and travels to the brain, where it lodges in a small artery causing a stroke.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: It occurs when an artery itself in the brain ruptures, resulting in the leaking of blood into the brain tissue.
Both the types have the following signs that can appear suddenly –
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, can also be partial on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
- Trouble seeing in one or sometimes both the eyes.
- Difficulty in walking, and/or loss of balance/coordination.
- Severe headache with no known cause.
How to Prevent a Stroke?
So, here comes the most asked question, “what can I do to prevent stroke?”.
There are two factors that can cause a stroke –
One is the age factor and family history of stroke. On the other part, our day-to-day lifestyle habits. You can’t reverse your age or change your family history, but you can be proactive and avoid the habits that can likely contribute to a stroke. Following are three simple tips to avoid a stroke or blood-clot related conditions –
1. Lose Excess Weight
Obesity not only accumulates calories on the blood vessels walls which triggers a stroke but it can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes which again raises your risk of having a stroke. If you’re overweight, that is more than your BMI index, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.
Try fiber-rich foods and avoid sugar and highly processed foods like coke and pizza. Consume no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
2. Quit Alcohol and Tobacco
Drinking alcohol more than two drinks per day, your stroke risk goes up very sharply. Avoiding alcohol can not only lead to better liver health but increases your overall wellness. Similar to alcohol, tobacco/smoking increases your odds of getting a stroke.
Smoking acts as a catalyst and causes clot formation by thickening your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries.
If you are a chain-smoker, use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine. A healthy diet coupled with regular exercise, and quitting smoking is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk multi-fold.
3. Treat Diabetes and Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled and it damages blood vessels over time. One of the biggest contributors to the risk of stroke in both men and women is having uncontrolled blood pressure.
Try keeping your blood sugar under control. Maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80 if possible – consult with your doctor or get tested for D-dimer levels to have an accurate diagnosis for your health condition.
Have control of your diet, and exercise a lot. Any activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, will help.
Stroke and heart disease share a common root. Both emerge from a mix of nature (i.e. age and family history), and personal choice (smoking, exercise, etc). Most of the time, it is the personal choice that largely determines whether you are to encounter a stroke or not. Leading a healthy lifestyle with a proper diet, quitting alcohol and smoking, and having control over your blood pressure can help significantly and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.