What is a stroke?
A stroke is damage to part of the brain when its blood supply is suddenly reduced or stopped. A stroke causes a loss of function, sometimes permanently, in the part of the body that is controlled by the damaged part of the brain. Only 1 in 3 stroke victims recover completely. Another 1 in 3 have a permanent disability from the stroke. The remaining third are killed by the stroke.
Stroke is rare before age 60 but then is more likely the older you get. The risk of stroke is higher in people whose relatives have had strokes. You can’t stop getting older and you can’t change your family medical history, but your lifestyle can affect most of the other risk factors. If you have had a stroke, you are at risk for another one if you don’t change your lifestyle or get treatment for medical problems.
Do medical problems increase the risk for stroke?
A stroke may be caused by anything that stops or slows down the blood flow to part of the brain. Blood can be kept from reaching brain tissue when a blood vessel gets blockedâfor example, by a blood clot–or bursts and bleeds into the brain.
Some of the medical problems that increase your risk for stroke are:
high blood pressure
narrowed arteries and heart disease caused by blood vessel disease (atherosclerosis) and high blood cholesterol
If you have these problems, be sure to follow the treatment recommended by your healthcare provider.
Do lifestyle habits increase the risk for stroke?
Lifestyle habits that increase your risk of stroke include:
not getting enough exercise
heavy use of alcohol
How can I help keep myself from having a stroke?
Keep your blood pressure under control. Talk to your provider about how to do this. You may be able to lower your blood pressure with changes in your diet, weight control, exercise, relaxation, and stress reduction. You may also need medicine.
If you have heart disease, follow your treatment plan.
If you have diabetes, keep good control of your blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes requires taking insulin the rest of your life. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be controlled with diet, but sometimes medicine is needed as well.
Keep a healthy weight. Lose weight if you are overweight.
Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet to lower your cholesterol and decrease the risk of developing fatty deposits in your blood vessels.
Exercise regularly for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week. Regular exercise lowers your risk by:
lowering blood pressure
helping you lose weight or keep a healthy weight
improving blood circulation
If you smoke, quit. Talk with your provider if you need help quitting.
Don’t drink too much alcohol.
Men should have no more than 1 to 2 drinks a day.
Women should have no more than 1 drink a day.
Limit alcohol as your provider tells you to.
Ask your provider if you should take aspirin. If you have risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, aspirin may lower your risk. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason. Your provider can help you decide if the benefits of aspirin outweigh the small risk of bleeding.
If you have a type of irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, your provider may prescribe a blood thinner to help prevent clots.
If you have high cholesterol, your provider may recommend medicine that lowers cholesterol.
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