What is a stroke?
A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). With 185,000 people dying from a stroke, it is the fifth leading cause of death in America. Stroke survivors can have lasting disability. While some people think that strokes always fatal, the opposite is true.
Here’s the good news about strokes:
- 80% of all strokes are preventable
- Many strokes can be treated and quality of life can be greatly restored
- There are nearly 7 million stroke survivors in the US.
- Prompt action saves lives
Here’s why stroke prevention matters:
- Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.
- A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
- Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Every 4 minutes someone dies from stroke
- Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented
- Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.
What are the major risk factors for stroke?
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the following are major risk factors for stroke include:
- High blood pressure. High blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke. Blood pressure is considered high if it stays at or above 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over time. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, then high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher. A visit to your primary care doctor can diagnose and treat high blood pressure and protect your body from the man problems that untreated high blood pressure can cause, not just stroke.
- Diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the blood sugar level is high because the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use its insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it’s used for energy. Diabetes can cause changes in blood vessels at various locations and can lead to stroke if blood vessels in the brain are directly affected. Careful diet and medication can help ease the symptoms of diabetes and vulnerability to stroke.
- Heart diseases. Ischemic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots that can lead to a stroke. Today there are excellent advanced medications and technologies to diagnose and treat heart disease and greatly lower the risk of stroke, ask your primary care doctor where to begin.
- Smoke and Stroke. Smoking makes you twice as likely to die if you have a stroke, and the more you smoke, the greater your risk of stroke. Tobacco smoke has many different effects on the body including thickening the blood, increasing the risk of blood clots and narrowing the arteries, as well as restricting oxygen in the blood. Ask your primary care doctor for support and smoking cessation approaches.
- Race and ethnicity. Strokes occur more often in African American, Alaska Native, and American Indian adults than in white, Hispanic, or Asian American adults. Which means you need to take extra care to have regular check-ups, blood pressure monitoring and learn the warning signs of stroke.
- Personal or family history of stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack). If you’ve had a stroke, you’re at higher risk for another one. Your risk of having a repeat stroke is the highest right after a stroke. A TIA also increases your risk of having a stroke, as does having a family history of stroke.
- Brain aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). Aneurysms are balloon-like bulges in an artery that can stretch and burst. AVMs are tangles of faulty arteries and veins that can rupture (break open) within the brain. AVMs may be present at birth, but often aren’t diagnosed until they rupture.
- Age and gender. Your risk of stroke increases as you get older. At younger ages, men are more likely than women to have strokes. However, women are more likely to die from strokes. Women who take birth control pills also are at slightly higher risk of stroke. Whether you are a man or a woman, you can take preventive action and lower your risk of stroke.
Get these under control and you’ll greatly reduce your stroke risk.
We understand that it isn’t easy to watch out for all the risk factors we’ve identified, but these are issues to resolve that make good sense for your long term health, not just stroke avoidance.
- Alcohol and illegal drug use, including cocaine, amphetamines, and other drugs
- Certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell disease, vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), and bleeding disorders
- Lack of physical activity
- Overweight and obesity
- Stress and depression
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- Unhealthy diet
- Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but not aspirin, may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, particularly in patients who have had a heart attack or cardiac bypass surgery. The risk may increase the longer NSAIDs are used. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen
Remember you’re not in this alone, your doctor is here to help
If you have a family history of stroke, or have one or more risk factors we’ve talked about here, come and talk to your primary care provider at Premier Medical Group. Don’t have a primary? Now is the perfect time to start a relationship. Call (845)790-6100 today for an appointment.