What is a stroke?
When blood flow is blocked or cut off from reaching the brain, the brain becomes depleted of oxygen and brain cells begin to die off almost immediately; causing an ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes are the most common types of stroke and can happen due to various reason with a blood clot in an artery being the most common.
A hemorrhagic stroke is another type of stroke in which there is bleeding in the brain; sometimes caused by a clot or more often by a rupture or aneurysm. Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes are the two most common types of strokes.
A condition similar to a stroke is a TIA or transient ischemic attack. A TIA happens when blood flow is blocked to a portion of the brain for a short period of time. While a TIA is very serious damage to the brain cells generally is not permanent; however, just as when you have a stroke you should seek immediate medical assistance & call 911.
- Smoking – smoking causes damage to your blood vessels, increases plaque build up in your arteries, increases the risk of clot formations and increases your blood pressure. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke compared to those who don’t smoke.
- Aging – unfortunately your risk of having a stroke increases with age. Men are at higher risk of having a stroke in their younger years; however women are at a higher risk of dying from a stroke.
- High Blood Pressure – if you have high blood pressure increases your risk. High blood pressure is actually considered one of the main risks of strokes.
- Diabetes & Chronic Kidney Disease – having diabetes increases your risk of stroke mainly because the disease itself can cause high cholesterol, high blood pressure and kidney problems. Your heart and kidney work closely together and any increased kidney issues or disease can increase your risk of having heart problems.
- Family History/Ethnicity – if your family has a history of heart disease you will be at higher risk for heart disease also. Your ethnicity can also play a part when it comes to increased risk; as strokes occur more often in Native Alaskan, American Indian, & African American adults than in Caucasian, American Asian, or Hispanics.
Life After a Stroke
Remember that not every stroke has lasting effects; however, if you have had a stroke you need to make changes in your lifestyle as it is a warning sign that you are not heart healthy. A stroke that leaves minimal to no lasting effects or one that alters your life & abilities is a wake up call to make changes in your lifestyle.
- Eat Heart Healthy – if you have the ability to cook for yourself then you need to changes in your diet and eat a heart healthy diet. If you cannot cook for yourself hire a professional caregiver to help you.
- Exercise – it’s important to exercise under the watchful eye of a professional and with medical supervision. Because you have had a stroke you are risk of having another stroke or heart attack if you cause too high of an increase in your blood pressure. However, not exercising will only increase your risk even more
- Stay Socially Active – keeping active will help not only offer a better quality of life but can also encourage you to work on your speech skills if they’ve been affected. A speech therapist can work with you one on one to teach you skills; while staying active with friends and family can help you utilize those skills regularly.
- Manage Your Health – be aware of any health risks you may have that could increase the probability of another stroke or heart attack. It is important to see your physician or cardiologist regularly and take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy lifestyle should be your goal to avoid ever having a stroke or heart attack. However, if you should have a stroke it is important to have a cardiac rehab team available to you to help you get stronger and healthier.
According to the National Stroke Association up to 80% of strokes are preventable with lifestyle changes and risk management. Download this brochure to learn more about how you can prevent a stroke.
Photo by MichaelaPhotos.