A Stroke is a medical emergency that interrupts blood flow to a part of the brain and requires immediate treatment. Given that Strokes tend to be lifestyle-related, everyone potentially has the power to reduce or even eliminate their chance of having one. Here are the common risk factors associated with Strokes and tips on how to avoid them.
 

Understanding Stroke

Also called a cerebrovascular accident, a Stroke is a type of brain damage caused by an interruption in its blood flow. It occurs when the blood supply to a part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing the brain tissues from getting oxygen and nutrients. When this happens, the brain cells begin to die. There are two main types of stroke — ischemic, caused by a blood clot in an artery supplying blood to the brain, and hemorrhagic, caused by a rupture in an artery in the brain.
 

Risk factors for Stroke

High blood pressure (hypertension)
This is perhaps the biggest cause of Strokes in patients. Hypertension leads to the blood exerting abnormal levels of pressure on the blood vessel walls, which could weaken them over time and increase the risk of a cerebral hemorrhage. It could also thicken the artery walls and eventually cause a blockage, leading to an Ischemic Stroke.

Atherosclerosis
This is an inflammatory condition that leads to hardening of the artery walls. Affected arteries become stiff and accumulate deposits of cholesterol-laden plaque, which can lead to the formation of blood clots. The clots can then block the artery or flow downstream and block a smaller vessel, either of which can trigger a Stroke.

Smoking
Smoking can significantly increase your risk of having a Stroke as it thickens the blood and increases the likelihood of clot formation. Chemicals like nicotine and carbon monoxide that are present in cigarette smoke can also constrict the artery walls, making it harder for blood to flow through them.

Diabetes
A person who has diabetes is twice as likely to suffer a Stroke as a healthy individual of the same age and gender. The high blood sugar levels that occur as a result of diabetes lead to a narrowing of the arteries, which increases the risk of clots forming.

Cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can cause health problems if its levels in the body become too high. High blood cholesterol leads to the formation of atheroma, a substance that sticks to artery walls and narrows them.

Carotid artery stenosis
This is a condition that hardens the arteries in the neck. It is a major risk factor for Stroke, as the arteries in the neck are responsible for blood flow to the brain. Often, patients are not even aware that they have this condition until they have a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or ‘mini Stroke’. A TIA is a strong indicator that a full-blown Stroke is imminent and requires immediate medical attention.

Atrial fibrillation
This is a condition that produces an irregular heartbeat owing to inefficient pumping by the atria (the chambers of the heart). This causes blood to stagnate and clot in the atria, following which parts of the clots may break off and block an artery, leading to a Stroke. 

Alcohol consumption
People who drink heavily (three or more standard-sized drinks per day) are up to three times more likely to suffer a Hemorrhagic Stroke, regardless of age.

Diet
An unhealthy diet that is high in fatty and processed foods can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels and thus, increase the risk of a Stroke. Excess body fat from consuming an unhealthy diet could also lead to diabetes or heart disease, both major risk factors for a Stroke.
 

Tips to reduce the risk of Stroke

A patient who has suffered a Stroke requires immediate medical attention followed by a course of treatment at the best rehabilitation center in Bangalore. The treatment plan following a Stroke typically includes a combination of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy. In addition, certain lifestyle changes can reduce the patient’s risk of a Stroke.

  • Eat a low-fat, low-sodium diet that incorporates plenty of fiber
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking. To help with this, you may need to opt for counseling or ask your physician for strategies
  • Eliminate alcohol, or at least reduce your intake
  • Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly so that you know your numbers are within the safe range

While some risk factors like age or family history are beyond anyone’s control, there are several lifestyle factors that you can address in consultation with a physician. By leading an active, healthy lifestyle with regular clinical check-ups at the best rehabilitation center in Bangalore, you can avoid the risk of a Stroke and lead a healthy life.

Dr Na'eem Sadiq is a respected stem cell specialist at Plexus, and a prominent neurologist in Bangalore. He studied neurology and clinical neurophysiology in London, and worked with some of the most prestigious medical institutions in England, and the Middle East. He completed his MBBS at Bellary Government Medical College, and a postgraduate degree in psychiatry from NIMHANS in Bangalore.

Dr Na'eem has perfected his knowledge and expertise in Continuing medical education (CME), and training in tissue culture, Stem Cell Therapy, and neurology. Dr Na'eem Sadiq possesses an undying passion to improve people’s lives. This led to the creation of Plexus, a neuro and Stem Cell Research centre in Bangalore in neurosurgery, and neurorehabilitation.