October 04, 2021
A stroke is a condition in which blood flow to the brain is stopped by either a blood vessel that gets blocked due to a clot (an ischemic stroke) or by a vessel that ruptures (a hemorrhagic stroke). When this happens, the life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients are cut off to brain and permanent damage to brain tissue can result.
If the affected area of the brain is one that is vital to life, death can occur. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada and number five on the list of leading causes of death in the United States. There is an alarming 50,000 new strokes occurring in Canada each year.
To recognize the signs of a stroke, remember the acronym BE FAST which stands for:
Balance - sudden loss of coordination or ability to walk and stand
Eyes - sudden double vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes
Face -drooping on one side of the face, especially at the corner of the mouth
Arms - sudden onset of weakness in one arm or leg
Speech - slurring of words or the inability of the person to understand what is being said
Time - Act quickly! Call emergency services immediately if you or someone else experiences any of these symptoms
Fortunately, 80 percent of all strokes are preventable, and a further 80 percent of second strokes due to a blood clot are also preventable. And don’t get lulled into the false idea that only people your grandparents’ age are at risk.
More and more younger people are having strokes, many of them not yet middle-aged. It’s estimated that a full ten percent of strokes occur in people younger than 50. Let’s get a closer look at what you can do to avoid this potentially life-threatening condition.
To understand how to prevent a stroke from occurring, you need to be able to recognize the risk factors for this condition. Here are the risk factors for all age groups, so if you have one or more of these conditions you are likely to be at a greater risk of stroke than someone who does not have these:
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Elevated blood cholesterol
Heart structural abnormalities (either inherited or acquired)
Additional risk factors for younger people (under age 50) include:
Use of illicit drugs
Congenital heart disease
Blood clotting disorder
Sickle cell disease
Various metabolic conditions such as Fabry disease, which predispose affected individuals to develop the risk factors associated with strokes, such as narrowing of blood vessels, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.
Although there have also been isolated reports of stroke in patients after chiropractic neck manipulation due to damage to an artery in the neck that leads to the brain, the risk is low, but you should be aware of this before you allow chiropractic neck manipulation.
The very best way to decrease your chance of having a stroke is to treat any of these underlying risk factors you may have. Something as simple as getting treated for high blood pressure can lower your chances of having a stroke by as much as 40 percent. Your doctor can assist you with strategies for controlling cholesterol and successfully managing diabetes. When managing weight, don’t underestimate the benefits of even dropping a few kgs by just including some light walking each day; remember that even if we always carry extra weight, exercise can still lower our chance of stroke. Health care professionals can also assist with addictions such as smoking or other addictions
If you are fortunate to not have any of these risk factors, then the best course of action is to eat a diet that includes fruit and vegetables at each meal, exercise regularly - take a daily walk or ride a stationary bike while you watch your favorite show, control stress – get outside, make time for a hobby, socialize and spend some time quietly doing deep breathing each day. Maintaining a normal body weight (BMI 25 or less) will also decrease your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, both risk factors for stroke.
Control and treatment of pre-existing risk factors as well as getting plenty of exercise, keeping body weight normal, and consuming a nutritious well-balanced diet are keys to keeping stroke at bay.