08 July 2013

How You Can Help Prevent a Stroke

Also known as a "brain attack," a stroke is a condition that occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blood clot or a breakage in a blood vessel. Stroke can be a major, traumatic event, causing brain cells to die and brain damage to occur. Although having a stroke can be devastating, the good news is that approximately 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. 

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for stroke. Some doctors state that a helpful stroke prevention measure is knowing and monitoring their blood pressure and following a doctor's treatment plan to lower their blood pressure if it is high. Blood pressure is typically checked at each annual doctor's exam visit; however, health fairs and drugstores often feature free blood pressure checks that patients may take advantage of in between doctor visits. 

Atrial fibrillation, also known as Afib, is also a major risk factor that can increase the possibility of having a stroke by 50 percent. This condition can cause blood to pool in the heart and form a clot. Visiting a doctor annually is important as doctors may check for conditions like Afib and prescribe treatment to minimize or eliminate the associated risks. 

One of many reasons to quit smoking is the increased risk of having a stroke. Smoking doubles stroke risk by contributing to artery clogging and raising blood pressure. Doctors have also linked alcohol consumption to stroke risk. Healthcare professionals recommend limiting drinking to no more than two drinks each day, though it may be best to abstain from alcohol completely.

High cholesterol levels can also contribute to stroke by clogging arteries. It is important to monitor food consumption and not overindulge in unhealthy fatty foods that are high in cholesterol. Cholesterol levels should be checked during an annual health exam. If levels are found to be high, a doctor may prescribe exercise, dietary changes, and medication. 

People who are diagnosed with diabetes may also have other conditions that increase the risk of stroke. Diet, exercise, and regular monitoring and cooperation with a healthcare professional are critical to controlling diabetes. 

A doctor will also be able to offer guidelines for reducing the risk of stroke and other complications.  Circulatory problems should be addressed with a healthcare professional. Those who have been diagnosed with sickle cell or other forms of severe anemia may have a higher risk of developing stroke. These conditions should be closely managed and monitored by a doctor to help reduce the risk. 

Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA, is a condition that can last from a few minutes to an entire day and may resemble the symptoms of stroke. Up to 40 percent of people who experience Transient Ischemic Attack may later have a stroke. Recognizing the symptoms of TIA and receiving treatment may reduce stroke risk. 

The key to reducing the risk of having a stroke is simply knowing the risk factors and managing any that may apply. Stroke risk factors can generally be identified during a regular doctor's visit, at which point a plan for reducing the risk should be discussed with a physician. 

Michael Jones is a keen health writer and in particular write a lot about strokes and the after care of patients who suffer them.

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