Stroke is a cerebrovascular disease that occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or some other particle. If the blood supply which carries oxygen to the brain is stopped, the brain cells cannot function and die. This is the brain’s equivalent of a heart attack.

This is also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), embolism, or thrombosis.

Types of strokes

There are two types:

  1. Hemorrhagic stroke or cerebral hemorrhage: a rupturing of a blood vessel, causing bleeding into the surrounding brain.
  2. Ischemic stroke: a restriction or interruption of blood supply to brain tissues.

What causes a stroke?

Are strokes preventable? The answer is clear and conclusive: yes.

Unmodifiable risk factors for CVA include age, gender, race/ethnicity, family history, and having had a prior CVA:

  • Age: The risk of having a CVA increases with age, doubling every ten years after 55.
  • Gender: Men and women have about the same number of embolism, but more than half of the deaths due toCVA occur in women.
  • Race/Ethnicity: Blacks have a higher risk of death and disability than whitesdue to a higher prevalence of hypertension among this group.
  • Family history: Having a close relative with a history of CVA increases CVA risk.
  • Prior stroke: CVA victims are at a higher risk of having another one.

However, there are other risk factors that can be controlled:

  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Illegal drug use
  • Hypertension
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle,
  • Salt and fat rich diet
  • Heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation

The goal is to correct these risks factors to prevent a CVA.

Stroke prevention

Some CVA prevention strategies recommended by the Spanish Society of Neurology (Sociedad Española de Neurología) involve healthy habits such as:

  • Following a nutrient-rich healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting tobacco use
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation

Controlling high blood pressure regularly

Stroke symptoms: the importance of early detection of CVA

What are the signs of a stroke?

If left untreated, a CVA can lead to irreversible damage and possibly even death. Learning the warning signs of a stroke is essential to minimizing the consequences.

Symptoms of a CVA:

Sudden:

  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, and/or leg on one side of the body
  • Loss of vision or double vision
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or trouble understanding speech
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination

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