So, What Is A Stroke?
Before we take a deep dive into the risk factors behind a stroke that you need to watch for, let’s discuss what a stroke is. A stroke occurs when the blood flow to your brain is stopped for any length of time. This is a medical emergency and it’s urgent to seek medical care.
What Causes a Stroke?
The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen, blood, and nutrients in order to function. If blood supply stops- even for a short time, brain cells begin to die. When you lose brain cells, brain function is lost. When you have a stroke, you may lose the ability to do things that are controlled by the affected part of your brain. A stroke may impact your ability to:
- Think and Remember
- Control your bowels and bladder
- Control your emotions
- Control other bodily functions
Types of Stroke
There are two kinds of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke. This is the stroke that afflicts the majority of people who have a stroke. It occurs when a major blood vessel in the brain is blocked by either a blood clot or a buildup of fatty deposits and cholesterol.
- Hemorrhagic stroke. This is when a blood vessel in your brain bursts and spills blood into nearby tissues. When you have a hemorrhagic stroke, pressure builds up in surrounding brain tissue, causing even more damage and irritation.
Risk Factors For Stroke
Strokes can happen to anyone at any time but your chances of having a stroke increases when you have certain risk factors. You can manage some of the risk factors for stroke through lifestyle, but others are genetic. Here are risk factors that can be managed through intervention:
- High Blood Pressure. Having a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher can damage the blood vessels and arteries that supply blood to the brain.
- Heart Disease. Heart disease is the second most important risk factor for stroke and is ultimately the major cause of death among stroke survivors. Heart disease and stroke share many of the same risk factors
- Diabetes. People suffering from diabetes are at greater risk for stroke than someone who isn’t diabetic.
- Smoking. Smoking will almost double your risk for ischemic stroke.
- Birth Control Pills.
- History of Transient Ischemic Attacks. These are often called mini-strokes and share the same symptomatology as stroke but symptoms don’t last. If you’ve had one or more of these TIAs, you are almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same demographics that hasn’t experienced a transient ischemic attack.
- High Red Blood Cell Count. Significant increases in the number of red blood cells causes the blood to thicken and makes clots more likely, raising the risk for stroke.
- High Blood Cholesterol and Lipids. High cholesterol levels can help to contribute to the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. This plaque is deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, and calcium. Plaque buildup on the inside of the artery walls can decrease the amount of blood flow to your brain. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off.
- Lack of Physical Activity.
- Excessive Alcohol Consumption. Consuming more than 2 drinks a day raises your blood pressure. Binge drinking can lead to a stroke.
- Illegal Drugs. IV drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke from blood clots (cerebral embolisms). Cocaine and other stimulants have been closely linked to strokes, heart attacks, and other severe cardiovascular problems.
- Abnormal Heart Rhythm. Some forms of heart disease can raise your risk for stroke. Having an irregular heartbeat is both the most powerful and the most treatable heart risk factor of stroke.
Risk Factors for Stroke That You Can’t Change
- Aging. For each decade of life after the age of 55, your chances for having a stroke more than doubles.
- Race. African Americans are at a much higher risk for death and disability from a stroke than caucasians. This is partially tied to the increased chances of high blood pressure in the African-American population.
- Gender. Men are most likely to have a stroke, but women are more likely to die from stroke.
- History of Prior Stroke. You carry a much higher stroke for having a second stroke after you’ve had one.
- Heredity or Genetics. Your chances of stroke are greater when you have a family history of stroke.
Stroke: The Key Points To Remember
- Strokes occur when the blood flow to your brain is stopped and are a medical emergency.
- Stroke can be caused by a narrowed blood vessel, bleeding, or a blood clot that restricts or blocks blood flow.
- Symptoms can onset suddenly. If someone is showing any of the signs of having a stroke, call 911 immediately.
- Stroke victims have better chances of recovery when emergency treatment is started right away.
- How stroke affects you depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much damage occurs during the event.