By Archana Arora
Senior Dietician, Health Factory
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. Stroke knows no boundaries – every 2 seconds someone in the world has a stroke.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures)
Risk Factors cannot be changed or controlled
- Age— The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
- Heredity (family history) — Your stroke risk may be greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke.
- Sex (gender)— Each year, women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men. Use of birth control pills, pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use, and smoking, and post-menopausal hormone therapy may pose special stroke risks for women.
- Prior stroke, TIA or heart attack— The risk of stroke for someone who has already had one is many times that of a person who has not. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are “warning strokes" that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. If you’ve had a heart attack, you’re at higher risk of having a stroke, too.
Risk Factors that can be controlled
- High blood pressure— High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor for stroke.
- Cigarette smoking— In recent years, studies have shown cigarette smoking to be an important risk factor for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system in many ways. The use of oral contraceptives combined with cigarette smoking greatly increases stroke risk.
- Physical inactivity and obesity — Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
- Diabetes mellitus — Diabetes is an independent risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight. This increases their risk even more. While diabetes is treatable, the presence of the disease still increases your risk of stroke.
- Heart disease — People with coronary heart disease or heart failure have a higher risk of stroke than those with hearts that work normally. People with high blood cholesterol have also an increased risk for stroke. Also, it appears that low HDL (“good”) cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke.
- Poor diet — Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium (salt) can contribute to increased blood pressure. Diets with excess calories can contribute to obesity.
Spot a stroke fast. F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke.
- Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
- Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
- Trouble – Sudden trouble walking, seeing or understanding & severe headache with no known cause.
Effects of stroke
The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions. If a stroke occurs and blood flow can’t reach the region that controls a particular body function that part of the body won’t work as it should.
The good news is that 80 percent of all strokes are preventable. It starts with managing key risk factors, including high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, atrial fibrillation and physical inactivity. More than half of all strokes are caused by uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure, making it the most important risk factor to control.
Note the time when the first symptoms appeared.
Protect Your Heart, Protect Your Brain
What’s good for your heart is good for your brain. Eat Heart Healthy & aim to go on a brisk walk, take the stairs, and do whatever you can to make your life more active. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days.