Stroke: Causes and Prevention

Stroke: Causes and Prevention


It has been recorded that strokes cripple about 14 million people worldwide. It is the most dreaded and disabling disease after cancer, AIDS and heart disease. Strokes can occur without warning. Victims of stroke die from the first attack while those who survive often need special care while some require
institutionalization.


CAUSES OF STROKE

A stroke is also known as Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA) and it’s often associated with atherosclerosis which is the narrowing, thickening and hardening of arteries supplying the brain with oxygenated blood. These atherosclerotic processes can occur both in the arteries within the brain and in arteries leading to the brain. The ragged, roughened inner surfaces of the damaged arteries become seedbeds for plaque and clot formation. Sometimes pieces of plaque or blood clots break off from other parts of the circulatory system and travel to smaller brain arteries producing obstruction. These travelling pieces are called emboli. Over 75% of CVAs result from these emboli blockages.

Blowouts or haemorrhages also cause strokes. Most of these are often associated with uncontrolled high blood pressure which forces blood through cracks in stiffened artery walls. Strokes do its damage by preventing fresh blood from reaching an area of the brain which dies from lack of oxygen. If a large area of the brain is affected, the stroke will be severe and can be fatal while a smaller area of brain damage will cause lesser symptoms.  

Stroke risk factors: Most strokes are directly related to high blood pressure. People with hypertension are seven times more likely to suffer a stroke than people with normal blood pressure. Other risk factors include elevated blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking and sedentary lifestyle. All of these contribute to the atherosclerotic process.

HOW STROKES CAN BE PREVENTED

Like other lifestyle diseases, stroke can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. Things to be done include the following:
  1. Always check your blood pressure regularly. Hypertension has no symptoms and it can occur anytime. 
  2. Obesity promotes atherosclerosis and as a result every individual should endeavour to maintain a normal/healthy weight. 
  3. Avoid smoking. One out of every five CVA death is directly related to tobacco use. 
  4. Minimize the intake of salt. It has been found that in areas of the world where salt intake is low, hypertension is virtually non-existent. While in Japan, where salt intake is very high, stroke was the leading cause of death. 
  5. Always eat foods that are low in cholesterol and fat, but high in fibre. 
  6. Exercise regularly and actively. Exercise enhances the circulation of blood and helps control weight and hypertension
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