How to Prevent a Stroke
Did you know that most strokes can be prevented? Do you know how to prevent a stroke? Are you aware of the risk factors that increase your chances of a stroke?
Let’s start with what a stroke is and what it does to the body. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain becomes blocked by a clot or travelling plaque. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die and the outcome can range from minor disability to death.
Here are some of the stroke risk factors, lifestyle changes that can help save your life, treatment options to prevent stroke and warning signs that you are having a stroke.
Risk Factors for Stroke:
It is important to identify conditions that increase your risk of stroke. The risk is cumulative over time so managing risk factors beginning at a young age is key. However, it is never too late to start.
- Circulation Problems – Strokes can be caused by complications with any component of your circulation—your heart, arteries in the chest, neck and brain, and blood clotting problems.
- High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure is the number-one cause of stroke and the most important risk factor to control.
- Heart Disease – Conditions like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and coronary artery disease (blockages in the arteries to the heart muscle) can damage the heart function. This heart damage or other valve defects, atrial fibrillation (arrhythmia), and enlargement of heart chambers can cause blood clots that can block vessels into the neck or the brain.
- High Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a fatty substance in blood. It’s made by the body, and it’s also found in food. If there’s too much cholesterol in your blood, it can clog arteries and cause a stroke.
- Diabetes – You are two to four times more likely to have a stroke if you have diabetes.
You can also decrease your risk of having a stroke by making lifestyle changes such as:
- Stop smoking. Smoking accelerates clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries.
- Watch what you eat. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with foods that are high in fiber. Limiting salt can help lower your blood pressure. Eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats, may reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying extra weight can make you more apt to develop high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes—which can all increase the risk for stroke.
- Be active. Physical activity can help you lose weight and reduce stress— which can lower blood pressure. Being active can also help lower cholesterol, control diabetes, and improve overall health.
- Drink less alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure and increase the risk of
Diagnosing a Stroke:
Diagnosing your risk for a stroke is done by a painless and noninvasive test called a carotid ultrasound. A few minutes for this simple test can help identify stroke producing plaque and can help save a life.
Treating a Stroke:
Depending on the severity of your condition, treatment options may include lifestyle changes or adding medication to your regimen. Whenever a procedure is needed to remove or treat plaque in the neck, a minimally invasive procedure such as stenting or TCAR is considered first. Sometimes the best treatment for the carotid artery is still an open surgical repair to clean out the artery and reduce the amount of plaque that could travel to the brain and cause a stroke. These procedures can reduce the risk of a stroke to less than 1%. A vascular surgeon is best suited to evaluate your individual needs and make a comprehensive treatment plan including lifestyle, medical, stenting and surgical options.
Warning Signs for Stroke:
The American Stroke Association has a mnemonic to help remember the warning signs for stroke. “F.A.S.T” stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911. If someone is having a possible stroke, getting them to an emergency room immediately is the only way to improve their chance of making a full recovery.
The doctors at PVA are committed to stroke prevention. To learn more about strokes and how to prevent a stroke visit www.pvasatx.com or call (210) 237-4444 to make an appointment with a vascular surgeon.