Are Injuries From Strokes Preventable?

By Ryan Chase

VSCP LAW handles many cases involving strokes, delayed diagnosis of strokes, and medical malpractice related to strokes. To reduce the risk of strokes, the first step is to spread awareness about stroke prevention.

This blog marks the first in our series of stroke awareness blogs.

What Is A Stroke?

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, happens when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced. When this happens, brain tissue cannot get the necessary oxygen and nutrients. Because of this, strokes can lead to brain damage, disability, and even death.

How To Reduce Risk Of Strokes

The following are lifestyle changes anyone can make to reduce the risk of stroke:

Eat more plant-based foods.
Saturated fats, trans fat, salt, and cholesterol (found in animal-based foods) are definitively linked to strokes and stroke-related conditions. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, carry essential minerals, nutrients, and fiber; they are also low in fat.
Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet will help lower your risk of stroke. Diets that are high in salt (sodium) increase the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Try cutting salt from your diet by reducing your intake of processed or fast food for stroke prevention. Animal fats increase your cholesterol levels, so swap in healthy proteins such as nuts, lentils, tofu, and beans for pork, beef, and chicken. 

Engage in regular exercise.
Exercise – in particular, cardiovascular exercise –reduces your chance of stroke because it lowers blood pressure. It also may reduce the risk of stroke-contributing factors such as obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Control hypertension (high blood pressure).
People with high blood pressure are at an increased risk of stroke. Eating healthful diets, lowering salt intake, engaging in regular exercise, and quitting smoking can help you control high blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.

Quit smoking.
Smokers are more likely to suffer from strokes than non-smokers. When you inhale cigarette smoke, you breathe in carbon monoxide, which reduces the oxygen in your system, and nicotine, which causes your heart to beat faster. This leads to raised blood pressure, a leading cause of strokes. Quitting smoking is an excellent way to practice stroke prevention.

Reduce alcohol consumption.
Alcohol consumption can lead to increased blood pressure and damage the liver. Preventing liver damage and keeping blood pressure at a healthy rate are both excellent stroke prevention steps.

Treat sleep apnea.
People with sleep apnea are at higher risk of stroke. If you suffer from sleep apnea and natural remedies such as a healthy diet and regular exercise don’t help, consult a physician. There are oral appliances and positive airway pressure machines (like a CPAP) that can help combat sleep apnea.

Manage diabetes.
Having diabetes means you have too much sugar in your blood, damaging your blood vessels over time. Excess sugar in your blood can make the blood vessels stiff and cause a build-up of fatty deposits. Diabetes treatment options will depend upon what kind of diabetes you have. Work with your healthcare provider to create an effective plan for managing your diabetes.

Avoid illegal drugs.
Illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines can cause rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, inadequate respiration, low oxygen, and blood vessel spasms. Avoid any consumption of illegal drugs because even low to moderate illegal drug use could lead to stroke. Stroke prevention starts with a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

What Medications Can I Take To Prevent Stroke?

If you’ve had a TIA or are at high risk of stroke due to health complications, your doctor may prescribe you medication to reduce the chance of suffering a stroke. Stroke prevention medications include:

Cholesterol-lowering medications.
High cholesterol can lead to fatty build-up in the artery walls that narrows or blocks the artery to the brain, causing a stroke. Statins are an example of cholesterol-lowering medicine.

Anti-hypertensives.
High blood pressure is the most significant risk factor for stroke because if your blood pressure is too high, your arteries can thicken over time. They become weaker, less flexible, and then become more prone to blood clots. Lower blood pressure may reduce the risk of strokes.

Antiplatelet drugs.
Platelets are cells in your blood that form blood clots. Antiplatelet drugs make these cells less sticky and therefore less likely to clot. Aspirin is an example of an antiplatelet drug.   

Anticoagulants.
These drugs thin out the blood and reduce blood clotting. 

Why Might My Stroke Prevention Have Failed?

Sometimes, even practicing stroke prevention doesn’t always prevent strokes. Urgent medical care is required to prevent permanent injuries. Emergency room staff may perform any of the following to determine whether you’re suffering from stroke and what kind of stroke:

DIAGNOSIS OF STROKE:

  • Physical exam. Medical staff will listen to your heart rate, take your blood pressure, etc.
  • Blood test. Blood tests help your doctor determine how fast your blood clots, your sugar levels, and whether you have an infection.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses x-rays to examine the image of your brain. A CT scan can show a blockage (ischemia), bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage), tumor, etc.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create a detailed view of your brain, showing blood clots or bleeding.
  • Carotid ultrasound. This test shows fatty deposits or plaques and blood flow in your carotid arteries.
  • Cerebral angiogram. In this test, a doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter and guides it through your major arteries and into your carotid or vertebral artery. This will give the doctor a detailed view of the arteries in your brain and neck.
  • Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram finds the source of clots in your heart that may have traveled to your brain due to a stroke.

Again, time is of the essence. Once the healthcare staff has determined that you are suffering from a stroke and whether your stroke is caused by a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or brain bleed (hemorrhagic stroke), they must immediately begin interventions to prevent permanent injuries. These include:

TREATMENT FOR ISCHEMIC STROKE

  • Emergency IV Medication. An IV injection of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) — also called alteplase (Activase) —is usually given through a vein in the arm after a stroke is identified. tPA dissolves the blood clot causing your stroke.
  • Emergency Endovascular Procedures. Doctors can sometimes enter the blocked blood vessel and help treat the stroke from there. They may insert a thin catheter and guide it to your brain to deliver tPA directly where the stroke is occurring. Or, rather than delivering tPA, they can remove the clot with a stent retriever. Another option is for doctors to do both: remove the clot with a stent retriever while administering tPA.

TREATMENT FOR HEMORRHAGIC STROKE

  • Transfusion of blood medications. If you take blood-thinners to prevent blood clots, you may be given drugs to counteract their effects, lower brain pressure, reduce blood pressure, and prevent spasms or seizures. 
  • Surgery. Your doctor may perform surgery to remove the blood, relieve the pressure on your brain, and repair blood vessels. If you have an aneurysm, your doctor may also perform surgical clipping, where the doctor places a tiny clamp at the base of the aneurysm to keep it from bursting or keep a burst aneurysm from bleeding again. Or your doctor may insert detachable coils into the aneurysm to fill it, which will block blood flow and cause the blood to clot.

If you believe a loved one has suffered from injuries from a stroke as the result of a health care provider’s actions or inactions, contact VSCP LAW at www.vscplaw.com.

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