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Stroke --What are the best ways to reduce the risk of having a stroke?

Updated on October 14, 2013

The statistics of stroke by World Health Organization highlight the following about its incidence--

  • According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled.
  • High blood pressure contributes to more than 12.7 million strokes worldwide.
  • Europe averages approximately 650,000 stroke deaths each year.
  • In developed countries, the incidence of stroke is declining, largely due to efforts to lower blood pressure and reduce smoking. However, the overall rate of stroke remains high due to the aging of the population.

A stroke happens about every 40 seconds. In spite of increasing incidence of stroke all over the world, it is encouraging to know that 80% of strokes are preventable. Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65. The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55. But strokes can occur at any age. Nearly one fourth of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.

Ischemic stroke
Ischemic stroke
Hemorrhagic stroke
Hemorrhagic stroke
Mini stroke
Mini stroke

There are basically three kinds of strokes –

  1. Ischemic stroke- It occurs as a result of blockage within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for 87% of all stroke cases.
  2. Hemorrhagic stroke- It occurs when a weak blood vessel ruptures.
  3. Transient ischemic attack TIA) - It is caused by a temporary clot in a blood vessel of the brain. They are often called mini strokes and serve as a warning to be taken seriously of a future stroke.

The following preventive measures can be taken to reduce the incidence of stroke –

  • Manage high blood pressure- High blood pressure is a major risk factor for the stroke. An individual suffering from hypertension must manage it effectively with the help of a physician.
  • Identify atrial fibrillation- Atrial fibrillation, a condition with an abnormal heart beat, can increase the stroke risk by 400%. It should be diagnosed and treated by a physician urgently.
  • Quit smoking- Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. It speeds up atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels) and raises blood pressure.
  • Limit alcohol consumption- Alcohol use has been associated with the causation of strokes. Physicians recommend not taking alcohol or taking only in moderation that is no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women per day.
  • Manage cholesterol level- High cholesterol levels can clog arteries and cause a stroke. Consult a doctor if the total cholesterol level is more than 200.
  • Control diabetes- Diabetes is also an important risk factor for stroke. The incidence of pre-diabetes is also rising all over the world. The persons having diabetes should manage their diabetes efficiently and those having pre-diabetes should also manage it to prevent diabetes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight- One should achieve and maintain a healthy weight by doing regular exercise and adopting healthy dietary choices.
  • Regular Exercise-A regular exercise schedule will greatly reduce the incidence of stroke
  • Take healthy diet- Maintain a diet low in calories, saturated and trans fats and cholesterol. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Treat circulation and heart problems- Strokes can be caused by problems of heart (pump), arteries and veins and the blood flowing through them. Blood diseases like severe anemia and sickle-cell disease should be treated properly.
  • Manage transient ischemic attacks- The transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a mini stroke lasting a few minutes to 24 hours. It usually doesn’t cause permanent damage or disability in the body. Recognizing and managing TIA efficiently will reduce the risk of stroke, since 40% of persons having TIA may suffer from a stroke.
  • Stress reduction- Reduce stress by adopting stress management techniques.

Summary—

  • A stroke happens about every 40 seconds. In the developed countries, the incidence of stroke is declining due to efforts to manage hypertension and to reduce smoking but the overall rate of stroke remains high due to aging population all over the world.
  • There are basically three types of stroke – ischemic stroke, hemorrhage stroke and transient ischemic attacks.
  • It is encouraging to note that 80% of incidence of stroke is preventable by adopting the preventive measures, which are enumerated above.

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