Cardiology: Stroke (Symptoms and Prevention)
A stroke occurs when there’s a disruption or reduction of blood supply to any part of your brain. This restricts nutrients and oxygen from reaching your brain tissues; brain cells start to die within minutes. A stroke is considered a medical emergency that requires quick intervention; prompt treatment can reduce brain damage and other complications. About 1 in every 4 people globally have a stroke; it is the world’s number 2 killer and the leading cause of disability. Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people in the UAE suffer from stroke annually. The good news is that 80% of these cases are preventable. 50% of stroke patients in the UAE are below 45 years compared to the global average, where 80% of stroke patients are above 65.
Signs and symptoms occur suddenly; that’s why you need to act fast. Some treatments work better when administered sooner than later. Signs and symptoms include; trouble communicating. You might have difficulty understanding speech, slur your words or experience confusion.
You might experience numbness or paralysis of the face, leg, or arm. This often occurs on one side; raise both arms over your head at the same time. If one begins to fall, you might be having a stroke. It might also cause one side of your mouth to droop if you try to smile.
If you experience a sudden severe headache accompanied by altered consciousness, dizziness, or vomiting, it might be a sign of stroke. You might also have trouble walking, like losing balance or stumbling. Stroke also causes blurred vision in one or both eyes.
How to Prevent Stroke
Although a family history of stroke and older age increase your risk of getting a stroke, you can prevent this condition by doing the following;
Lower Blood Pressure
It’s best to prevent this condition even before you start to notice stroke symptoms. High blood pressure increases the risk factor for developing stroke; it is the biggest cause of stroke. Lowering your blood pressure is one of the best ways to preserve your vascular health. High blood pressure has no symptoms; you can live with it for years. It damages blood vessels over time; this leads to the formation of blood clots in the vessels in the brain, which causes stroke. You can manage high blood pressure by going for regular check-ups, especially during tough times like during this pandemic.
Exercise is good for many things; it improves stroke treatment. Exercise helps to reduce high blood pressure, which is known to cause stroke. It is ideal to exercise regularly; do activities that raise your heart rate. You can do moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes; you can continue with this routine or build up the intensity with time. Although moderate exercise is safe, you should consult your doctor before engaging in any physical activities. If you already had a stroke, it’s necessary to consult your doctor to recommend the level and type of exercises to do.
Did you know that smoking makes you twice as likely to die from stroke? The more you smoke, the higher your risk. You need to seek help; you can search for a cardiologist near me to see all the specialists in your area. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals; they are transferred from the lungs into the bloodstream. This increases clot formation in various ways; it thickens your blood and accelerates plaque build-up in the arteries. Quitting smoking is one of the healthiest lifestyle changes that can prevent a stroke.
Type 1 and 2 diabetes increase the risk of getting stroke; high blood sugar gradually damages your blood vessels, increasing clot formation. Although there is no cure for diabetes, you can control it with proper medication and a healthy diet. You can also monitor your blood sugar levels as recommended by your physician.
Quit Drinking or Do it Moderately
Alcohol increases the risk of developing stroke. It can increase blood pressure, contributes to being overweight and diabetes. According to research, middle-aged people who drink have a 1/3 higher risk of developing stroke, and heavy drinkers are likely to suffer from stroke at a younger age.
Being overweight doubles the risk of getting a stroke. It also increases your risk of having a stroke at a younger age. Medical research shows that being overweight can cause hypertension which is the leading cause of stroke. Being overweight also leads to high cholesterol, excess circulating lipids, and high blood sugar; these gradually destroy the brain and heart’s blood vessels, causing clots which lead to stroke. If you are overweight, try reaching a healthy weight to avoid the negative implication of excess weight.
Treat Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heart rhythm that can cause the formation of clots. The risk of developing this condition increases with age and other risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, and underlying heart disease. Atrial fibrillation can cause heart failure and stroke. People with this condition are 3 to 5 times at a greater risk of developing stroke; it causes the blood to pool and get stuck in your heart’s grooves. As a result, blood clots can form and get pumped into your brain. It is estimated that ¼ of stroke cases after 40 years are caused by atrial fibrillation. It’s wise to work closely with a heart specialist to manage this condition.
You can prevent stroke by choosing healthy snacks and meals; include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet. Choose foods low in trans fats, saturated fats, and high cholesterol. Fiber-rich foods help to fight cholesterol. Limit your salt intake to lower blood pressure. Reducing your total fat intake to less than 30% of your total energy intake can prevent weight gain.
According to the WHO, 15 million people suffer from stroke annually; out of these, 5 million are permanently disabled, and another 5 million die. Although stroke is a severe condition, it’s preventable by working with your cardiologist and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.