A medical emergency when blood flow to a part of the brain becomes obstructed is referred to as a stroke. When blood flow is cut off from tissues in the brain, the cells do not receive enough nutrients and oxygen to stay alive. Depending on the severity and how quickly treatment was received for a stroke, permanent damage can be extensive or limited. Immediate medical attention is required for anyone who has a stroke, as brain damage, long-term disability, or death can result from it. There are three primary classifications a stroke can fall into, including a hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke, and a transient ischemic attack. Numerous risk factors can increase the risk of experiencing a stroke, including a family history of stroke and older age. Stroke prevention is crucial, and, thankfully, can be easier than many believe.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
To prevent a stroke, individuals should maintain a healthy weight. The excess fatty tissues present in individuals who are overweight and obese can cause widespread inflammation in the body. Any inflammation causes swelling and makes it harder for the individual's blood to move through their blood vessels. The cardiovascular system in an individual who is overweight or obese is under a heavy workload and is continuously strained. More body tissue means the individual has a higher demand for sufficient blood circulation by the heart and vessels to ensure oxygen and nutrients reach all parts of the body.
While being obese or overweight is a risk factor independent of others, it also produces several secondary risk factors. Sleep apnea is more likely to develop in those who are overweight or obese, which can cause irregular heart rhythms and high blood pressure that further increase the risk of having a stroke. Diabetes and left ventricular hypertrophy are also obesity precipitated risk factors that increase a patient's risk of having a stroke. Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising at a moderate level for at least 150 minutes per week can help patients maintain a healthy weight.
Keep Blood Pressure Under Control
An individual who wants to reduce their risk of having a stroke should keep their blood pressure under control. The most prevalent cause for a stroke is hypertension, and over half of all diagnosed strokes are caused by it. Patients who have high blood pressure regularly are between four and six times more likely to experience a stroke than individuals who have healthy blood pressure. Hypertension is defined as a frequent blood pressure reading of over 130/80. High blood pressure causes blood vessel linings to become damaged. Damaged blood vessel linings provide an opportunity for fatty substances such as cholesterol to enter the vessels and form plaque on the vessel walls.
A stroke can occur when a small piece of this accumulated plaque substance on the blood vessel walls breaks off and is free to flow in the individual's circulation. This piece of material is referred to as an embolus and can become lodged in any vessel in the body. However, a stroke occurs when an emboli travel to the brain and become lodged in a vessel that is responsible for supplying the brain tissues with blood. Keeping blood pressure under control can prevent blood vessel lining damage that leads to plaque buildup and emboli in the blood that can cause a stroke.
Prevention of a stroke can be achieved if an individual makes sure to stay active in combination with a healthy weight and blood pressure control. Several mechanisms are behind regular physical activity reducing the risk of having a stroke. Physical activity promotes the increase of a type of cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol that helps the body eliminate the bad kind of cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Less LDL cholesterol helps prevent the accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels that can lead to emboli in blood circulation.
Staying active also promotes a healthy weight and body mass index, which also increases an individual's risk of having a stroke. Regular physical activity can decrease an individual's blood pressure and promote healthy heart function. Diabetes is another factor that increases an individual's risk of having a stroke. Regular exercise can help a patient manage their blood sugar better regardless of their status regarding diabetes or prediabetes. To prevent a stroke, individuals should exercise at a moderate level for a minimum of 150 minutes per week.
An individual who wants to prevent a stroke should do their best to reduce stress by avoiding stressful situations and learning how to cope with stress healthily. Stress triggers the release of two hormones in the body that provoke numerous physiological changes meant to prepare an individual for a threat. Cortisol is a hormone that causes an individual's body to keep more sodium and fluid to elevate blood pressure. Adrenaline is another hormone released when an individual becomes stressed that causes an increase in their heart rate and blood pressure levels. This mechanism is helpful in situations where an actual physical threat is present, but it is counterintuitive when an individual is trying to relax and unwind from a long and exhausting day.
Stressful situations and chronic stress cause long-term hypertension, which is the most significant risk factor a patient can have for a stroke. Learning methods on how to cope with stress healthily, and avoiding stressful situations can help an individual prevent a stroke that may occur as a result of this process. Many individuals learn yoga or another form of meditation that has been known to help decrease stress.
An individual who smokes regularly would have to quit smoking altogether to effectively prevent themselves from experiencing a stroke. The quantity, frequency, and duration of cigarette or cigar smoking all play a role in the increased risk of a stroke. Smoking causes HDL cholesterol to decrease in the body, which promotes the increase of LDL cholesterol. Smoking also promotes hypercoagulability of the blood, increasing the risk of developing blood clots that can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. The toxins in the smoke inhaled into the lungs can cause damage to the alveoli and the lining of the blood vessels, lowering heart functionality and allowing plaque to build up in the vessels.
Smoking also promotes the narrowing and hardening of an individual's blood vessels, making them unable to expand with greater blood flow demand. Studies have proven an individual who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day for ten years is at the same risk as another individual who smokes one pack of cigarettes a day for twenty years. Therefore, every day an individual smokes and every pack of cigarettes smoked makes a difference in their stroke risk. An individual who quits smoking will slowly decrease their risk of having a stroke as their body repairs damaged tissue.