Advanced Health Conditions

Stroke Prevention and the Role of a Healthy Lifestyle

Stroke, also known as brain attack, may occur suddenly and sometimes with little warning, but the third leading cause of death in the United States is mostly preventable - if you take the right steps.

Stroke prevention actually has a lot to do with other disease processes. For instance, unchecked high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are all major risk factors for stroke.

Understanding the disease process that affect stroke risk

Conditions such as hypertension and diabetes increase the risk of stroke because they contribute to atherosclerosis, which causes blockages in the arteries. These blockages and the plaque on the arterial wall can break off and travel upstream to cause an embolic event. In other words, a clot travels to the brain and cuts off vital blood supply - which quickly leads to death of brain tissue and can leave a person permanently disabled, especially if treatment is not sought immediately.

So what can a person do to prevent stroke?

Many doctors recommend that you address any risk factors you may have - sooner rather than later. Some risk factors, like smoking, have to do with lifestyle; others are a matter of genetics and must be treated by a physician. There are simple tests for risk factors that are not usually performed by most physicians, called Homocysteine CRP-HS, that quickly identify if you have a stong likelihood of stroke.

The single strongest risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure, but others are very important as well, especially diabetes.

Stroke often happens with no advanced warning, but at the same time, there are warning signs for stroke that are ignored or not found in many cases. Transient ischemic attacks (TIA's), numbness and tingling - these are indicators of impending stroke. It is highly recommended that anyone over the age of 50 with several risk factors for stroke, as well as those of any age with an irregular heart beat, should be tested regularly.