Stroke is the fifth most common cause of death in the United States, but you don’t have to be a statistic. You can reduce your risk of stroke with some lifestyle changes.
At the Vein, Heart, and Vascular Institute, our team is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to conditions that affect your heart and vascular system. Leading the team are Dr. Hesham Fakhri and Dr. Abdulghani Saadi, both of whom have years of experience under their belts in stroke prevention techniques.
Understanding a stroke
A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident, happens when blood flow is disrupted to an area of your brain, causing immediate symptoms. If the blood flow isn’t restored quickly, that part of your brain may suffer irreversible damage.
There are generally two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic.
Ischemic strokes make up about 87% of all stroke cases. These strokes happen when one of the arteries that supplies blood to your brain becomes blocked, often by a blood clot.
A hemorrhagic stroke, on the other hand, happens when one of the blood vessels in your brain ruptures, causing blood to leak into your brain. This puts too much pressure on your brain. Conditions that may lead to a hemorrhagic stroke include an aneurysm and high blood pressure.
Another more mild form of a stroke is known as a transichemic attack, or TIA. This type of mini-stroke happens when blood flow to your brain is blocked for only a short amount of time. The defining characteristic of a TIA is blood flow that’s blocked for five minutes or less.
A TIA is often a warning sign that you may have a more severe type of stroke in the future. Although this is considered a mini-stroke, it’s still a medical emergency, and you should get immediate medical care.
Are you at risk?
While you can’t modify some risk factors, you can take steps to decrease your chances of suffering a stroke. Examples of factors that you can’t change include your age, family history, and race.
But there are plenty of risk factors that you’re able to change. Here are five common ones.
High blood pressure
The single most important factor in strokes is your blood pressure. When you have high blood pressure, which is considered to be 140/90 or higher, your risk of a stroke increases exponentially. Controlling your blood pressure through a healthy lifestyle and medications decreases your risk of stroke.
High cholesterol can cause pieces of a substance called plaque to break off in your arteries. The pieces can then travel to your brain and block blood flow. Keeping your cholesterol in check, especially your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, can help you prevent a stroke.
Heart disease encompasses a number of conditions that affect the overall health of your heart. One of these conditions, atrial fibrillation, is an irregular heartbeat that significantly increases your risk for stroke. If you have heart disease, see our team regularly to keep your heart healthy and prevent a stroke.
Smoking and chronic tobacco use ultimately damage your blood vessels and your brain. This can lead to a life-altering stroke. Quitting smoking, or not starting in the first place, is the single easiest way to prevent a stroke.
When you’re overweight, your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure increases significantly. These two diseases also put you at a higher risk for stroke. Losing weight and staying active may keep you from suffering a stroke later on.
Preventing a stroke
When you’re concerned about your health and stroke risk, we get you the help and information you need. Luckily, there’s much you can do to decrease your risk factors. We recommend you:
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet
- Lower your blood pressure
- Control your cholesterol
Starting your stroke prevention strategies sooner rather than later may save you from suffering a stroke at any age. Strokes don’t discriminate against gender, age, or race.
If you'd like to learn more about stroke prevention, call one of our offices in Wesley Chapel, Sun City Center, or Tampa, Florida, today. You can also request a consultation using our convenient online booking tool.