There are many factors that can be attributed to what causes stroke. Let’s examine this further.
Stroke is the leading cause of disability and death in adults and the third most common cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
According to Singapore’s Department of Statistics, stroke-related hospitalizations have increased by 34% since 2004. This means that approximately 100,000 people in Singapore are affected by strokes each year and up to 180 out of every 100,000 people will develop a stroke during their lifetime.
Many factors can increase your chance of experiencing a stroke. At the same time, there are also many easy steps and precautionary measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting a stroke.
In this article, we will examine what is a stroke, what causes stroke, common signs of a stroke, and how to prevent getting a stroke.
What causes stroke
A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is cut off. This cutoff may be caused by a clot or bleeding (tumor) in one of the arteries that supply blood to the brain, which are also called cerebral vessels.
Stroke can result from both high and low pressures within these vessels. When they rupture, it’s what doctors call an aneurysm.
A stroke usually has three phases:
The first phase is known as thrombotic occlusion – this occurs when a clot forms inside your artery that carries oxygen-rich blood through your body to your heart and then back up again so you have enough energy for daily activity. These clots often come without warning signs or symptoms.
The next phase is known as hemorrhagic occlusion – this occurs when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures and the pressure from the rupture can lead to blockages of other vessels, including those that supply what’s needed for healthy circulation in your body and fuel up energy levels.
The final stage of stroke is called infarction. It happens when artery-clogging becomes so severe that it leads to tissue death (necrosis). Infection may be caused by not enough oxygen-rich blood reaching parts of the brain, which again causes an interruption in its ability to function properly.
What are the different types of stroke
There are two main types of stroke – ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel leading to the brain gets blocked, usually by clotting, cholesterol, or plaque buildup in that artery.
Hemorrhagic strokes happen as a result of bleeding from an artery into surrounding tissues The most common type is what’s called “intracerebral hemorrhage” which occurs due to ruptured brain vasculature.
Ischemic strokes account for about 85% of the cases, while hemorrhagic strokes make up 15%. Both types are “brain attacks” that can lead to death or disability.
Fact: Every year there are about 800,000 people who have a stroke - and what's more, someone has a stroke somewhere in the world every 30 seconds.
Warning signs of a stroke
Strokes are the second leading cause of death in people under 60 years old. You need to be aware of common symptoms of stroke so you can take steps before it’s too late.
An ischemic stroke typically starts when a blood vessel that supplies oxygen-rich, nutrient-laden blood to an area of your brain gets blocked by the buildup of plaque. You may not know it’s happening until one specific part of your body stops responding (such as an arm). Other symptoms may also show, such as:
- Sudden numbness in one side of your face or body followed by confusion and difficulty speaking, reading, understanding what others say
- Slurred speech
- Problems seeing out of one eye (which may be droopy)
- Dizziness when you stand or walk
- Loss of balance (even when standing still)
- Trouble walking straight)
A hemorrhagic stroke generally varies depending on the severity of blood loss. If there is an artery that is damaged, then acute symptoms will be severe and may include:
- Chest pain
- Weakness or lightheadedness
- Headache or blurred vision
Possibly nausea, vomiting, generalized weakness, seizures, and other neurological problems. Severe cases can result in coma or even death.
In some cases with less severe bleeding, there can be any or none of these symptoms but rather just signs like bruising under the skin from broken capillaries as well as localized swelling from disrupted tissue (possible facial droop). Diagnosis is made through a CT scan.
In summary, the warning signs of a stroke include:
- Sudden weakness or numbness in arm or leg on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion
- Trouble speaking or understanding what others say
- Sudden vision changes like blurred vision
- Loss of vision in one eye
- Double vision
- Visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not there)
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you experience any of these symptoms it’s important to get medical help immediately.
How to prevent getting a stroke
As this article has shown, there is no single factor to what causes stroke. Instead, it’s the combination of several factors. Some of the best ways to prevent getting a stroke include changing your diet, exercise, sleep habits, and have better stress management.
Change your diet
Since what we eat can affect our risk of getting a stroke, it is important to know what foods are good for you and what foods may harm you.
Eat healthier foods like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, proteins from both plants and animals, and plenty of water most days. It’s also important to have breakfast within 60 minutes of waking up because it helps to keep blood sugar levels stable and to avoid what food we consume throughout the day.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to promote heart health and a healthy lifestyle.
It’s best to speak with your doctor about what exercise routine is best suited for you but we would recommend: stretching, aerobic activity, and strength training. Engage in an activity that is not intense for at least 150 minutes each week.
Ideally, these would be done three times a week for 20-45 minutes each day. This will vary by person based on age and fitness level and weight loss goal (excess body fat or insufficient muscle). But it’s important to know that any movement at all is better than none.
Some good exercises are walking briskly up hills (or just taking the stairs), swimming laps in a pool or lake, or doing stretches (including yoga and pilates).
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintain a healthy weight (i.e., BMI) or get down to a healthy weight if you are overweight or obese. Reduce salt intake, abstain from smoking cigarettes, and stop excessive alcohol use.
If you are overweight (BMI 25-30) or obese (BMI higher than 30), then you need to lose about 10% of your weight in order to reduce the risk of stroke.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep each night has been found to be one of the best ways of preventing strokes. When we don’t get enough sleep, it tires the body during the day which increases the chances of you having a stroke.
At the same time, it’s advisable not to sleep excessively. According to a study, those who sleep for more than 9 hours have a 23% chance of getting a stroke compared to those who didn’t.
Don’t smoke any tobacco products
Quitting smoking will reduce your risk of getting a stroke by as much as 50%. The good news is that the risks decrease pretty quickly after you quit.
Studies have found that even years after quitting, people were still benefitting from not having smoked in the first place. The more time goes on, the less likely you are to end up with a stroke.
Another effective way to prevent from getting a stroke is by reducing stress in your life. Try taking deep breaths, listening to soothing music or reading a book for some calm time.
Optimize your mood by being grateful, reflecting on what goals you have accomplished, and what can make this moment better.
Treatment options for an acute or chronic stroke
Stroke patients need nutrition therapy that addresses their dietary concerns as well as other health factors such as weight management.
In general, treatment options really depend on what caused the stroke. For example, if it was a blockage clot then there is typically some way to break up or remove that clot, and oftentimes surgery is an option.
However, no surgical option can be successful without the person being in excellent cardiovascular health. If it wasn’t caused by a blockage clot then many people need speech therapy for “isolation of language function” and occupational therapy to restore function.
Typically at this point, all rehabilitation revolves around improving functional outcomes from the strokes (choice of activities should vary).
Stroke is a serious medical condition that can lead to disability and death. If you think you or someone else has had a stroke, it’s important to seek emergency treatment as soon as possible so the damage from the stroke does not worsen. A specialist will be able to find out the cause of stroke and how best to treat it.
If you need any additional information or if you would prefer to seek consultation with a specialist, please feel free to contact fill the form on Smarter Health. Our team will respond to you as soon as possible.