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What is a stroke?
Strokes occur when the brain is blocked from a sufficient supply of blood. According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), strokes are ranked as number 5 for the cause of deaths in the United States. Strokes are also the leading cause of adult disability. In honor of “Stroke Awareness Month," this article will examine the types of strokes, symptoms and prevention steps.
An Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood from reaching brain tissue. The clot prevents the brain from receiving oxygen and nutrients that the blood stream supplies. Essentially, brain tissue is starved due to the lack of blood reaching the brain. Most strokes are ischemic and account for around 87 percent. An ischemic stroke may be caused by a clot that forms somewhere in the body and migrates to a small blood vessel in the brain where it is trapped and blocks blood flow.
Ischemic strokes are divided into two types of blockages--embolic and thrombotic. Plaque or clots that form in the blood stream are often the culprit for an ischemic event. Clots of this type are referred to as an embolic. An embolic stroke is usually a result of high cholesterol or from atherosclerosis. Blood clots that form in a main artery serving the brain are known as thrombotic. High blood pressure can also precipitate or contribute to a thrombotic event.
A stroke involving an aneurysm in which a blood vessel bursts or leaks into the brain tissue is hemorrhagic. While only fifteen percent of strokes are hemorrhagic, they are much more deadly, resulting in 40 percent of all stroke deaths.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Key symptoms for stokes include partial or total loss of consciousness, vomiting or severe nausea, speech difficulty, or numbness and/or weakness in the face or limbs. Immediate medical attention should be sought for proper diagnosis and treatment. Strokes are deadly and debilitating. Risk factors include high blood pressure, drug use, excessive alcohol use, or anti-clotting blood medications. High blood pressure is the most common risk factor. See the “ Hemorrhagic Stroke Fact Sheet" from the National Stroke Association for more details.
Prevention measures that do not require medication include diet and exercise. These two elements have a significant impact on our overall health. They are also the elements most under our control, yet are often ignored. By just adhering to these two prevention measures so much of the deaths and disabilities that occur can be tremendously reduced.
Prevention begins with what we put into our bodies. A healthy diet of vegetables, fruits and low-fat foods are essential. You should eat between 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Whole grain breads and cereals offer fiber and important vitamins. You should consume 2 to 4 small servings daily of whole grains. Only 2 small servings of lean protein should be eaten daily. Instead of butter, eat light or diet margarine. Instead of 2% milk, drink 1% or nonfat milk. Your diet should also be low in salt which has a strong correlation to high blood pressure, the most common risk factor for stroke victims.
Regular exercise is the other very important prevention measure. A good program of exercise that is consistent and appropriate to your fitness level has one of the most positive effects upon your health. Not only does it help to prevent strokes, but it also significantly reduces your risk to heart disease and diabetes. Exercise also aids in preventing weight gain, which can lead to a host of other risks. Many avoid exercise because they think it will take too much of their time. A recent exercise study reported on NBC found that a 9 minute intense workout can have as much benefit as a 45 minute moderate workout. The 9 minute workout begins with a 2 minute warm up and then a 20 second all out sprint followed by a 2 minute slow recovery. The program is repeated 3 times for a 9 minute total workout. The study found that those who followed this high intensity workout for at least 30 minutes had the same results as those engaged in a moderate intensity workout for 150 minutes a week. There are many items of fitness equipment to help you get your weekly exercise sessions completed.
Stroke Awareness Resources
- Fisher, C. Miller. "http://www.neurology.org/content/32/8/871.short." Neurology 32.8 (1982): 871-871.
- Gladstone, David J., et al. "Potentially preventable strokes in high-risk patients with atrial fibrillation who are not adequately anticoagulated." Stroke40.1 (2009): 235-240.
- Grønholdt, Marie-Louise M., et al. "Ultrasonic echolucent carotid plaques predict future strokes." Circulation 104.1 (2001): 68-73.
- Hart, R. G., et al. "Cardioembolic vs. noncardioembolic strokes in atrial fibrillation: frequency and effect of antithrombotic agents in the stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation studies." Cerebrovascular Diseases 10.1 (2000): 39-43.
- Jackson, Caroline, and Cathie Sudlow. "Are lacunar strokes really different? A systematic review of differences in risk factor profiles between lacunar and nonlacunar infarcts." Stroke 36.4 (2005): 891-901.
- Marshall, J. "Diurnal variation in occurrence of strokes." Stroke 8.2 (1977): 230-231.
- MRC Asymptomatic Carotid Surgery Trial (ACST) Collaborative Group. "Prevention of disabling and fatal strokes by successful carotid endarterectomy in patients without recent neurological symptoms: randomised controlled trial." The Lancet 363.9420 (2004): 1491-1502.
- Prospective Studies Collaboration. "Cholesterol, diastolic blood pressure, and stroke: 13 000 strokes in 450 000 people in 45 prospective cohorts." The Lancet 346.8991 (1995): 1647-1653.
- Schrier, Robert W., et al. "Effects of aggressive blood pressure control in normotensive type 2 diabetic patients on albuminuria, retinopathy and strokes." Kidney international 61.3 (2002): 1086-1097.
- Sharshar, T., et al. "Incidence and Causes of Strokes Associated With Pregnancy and Puerperium A Study in Public Hospitals of Ile de France."Stroke 26.6 (1995): 930-936.
- Thom, Thomas, et al. "Heart disease and stroke statistics—2006 update a report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee." Circulation 113.6 (2006): e85-e151.
- Yamori, Y. U. K. I. O., et al. "Pathogenetic similarity of strokes in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats and humans." Stroke 7.1 (1976): 46-53.
The videos below explore the advantages of risk prevention by diet and by exercise.
Stroke Prevention and Diet Video (13:43 minutes)
New Stroke Prevention Guidelines Video (0:49 minutes)