Know the Main Causes and Risk Factors of Stroke

By John Pinto

Understanding The Common Causes Of Strokes

Strokes are one of the most common illnesses impacting older adults and result in thousands of deaths each year. Sadly, many strokes are preventable. Understanding common stroke risk factors can help you make informed decisions about your lifestyle to prevent strokes.
This is part of a series of blogs discussing stroke awareness presented by VSCP LAW.

What Is A Stroke?

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, happens when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced. With a lack of oxygen to the brain, brain tissue cannot get the necessary oxygen and nutrients to survive and repair itself.  As a result, strokes can lead to brain damage, disability, and even death.

What Are Common Causes Of Strokes?

Generally, there are two leading causes of strokes: blocked arteries or burst blood vessels. However, doctors may classify a stroke as one of three different types.

  1. Ischemic Stroke. This is the most common type of stroke. When the brain’s blood vessels become narrowed or blocked, the blockage results in reduced blood flow (“ischemia”) to the brain.
  2. Hemorrhagic Stroke. This occurs when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures. The blood continues to increase and ultimately compresses the surrounding brain tissue. Hemorrhagic strokes occur either within the brain (intracerebral) or in the space between your brain and the surrounding membrane (subarachnoid).
  3. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). Sometimes referred to as a mini-stroke, a TIA occurs when there is blocked blood flow to the brain for a short time (usually less than five minutes). TIAs present with the same warning signs as an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, so it’s imperative to seek immediate medical attention if those warning signs are present. 

Common Stroke Risk Factors

Strokes are diverse, and several different risk factors may cause a stroke. Common stroke risk factors include:

  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Poor dietary choices
  • Heavy drinking
  • Smoking
  • Illegal drug use
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Age 55 or older
  • Use of hormonal drugs
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Can I Lower My Stroke Risk Factors?

Although not all strokes are preventable, you can attempt to reduce your risk of stroke.
Simple lifestyle changes may mitigate and eliminate a majority of the common causes of stroke in your life. These changes include:

  • Consuming more plant-based foods
  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Controlling hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Treating sleep apnea
  • Managing diabetes
  • Avoiding illegal drugs

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. Those 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, which is one of the common causes of stroke. Statins are an example of cholesterol-lowering medicine.

Anti-hypertensives. High blood pressure is one of the most significant stroke risk factors. 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.

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.

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

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