1.Risk factors for stroke
All the factors associated with an increase in disease occurence are called risk factors. Therefore, adequate identification and management of risk factors decrease the probability of stroke, decreasing mortality and increasing quality of life.
The main risk factors for stroke are:
Age and gender
Although stroke can happen at any age, including young children and neonates, its incidence increases with aging. Older the person greater the risk for stroke.
History of previous vascular disease
Everyone that already had a stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), myocardial infarction or obstructive periferal vascular disease (obstruction of blood flow to the lower limbs) have increase risk for stroke.
Heart diseases, specially that one caracterized by heart arrhythmias (alteration of the normal heart beating pattern and frequency), increase the chances to have a stroke. Heart arrhythmias are responsible for an altered blood flow that facilitates clot formation within the heart and blood stream, each could culminate with the deposition of the clot into the cerebral circulation occluding the vessel and decreasing the cerebral blood flow leading to ischemia and stroke. Some examples of diseases that increase the risk for stroke are: myocardial infarction, atrial fybrilation (arrhythmia), valvular diseases and Chagasic heart disease.
It is already a widespread knowledge that smoking is very prejudicial to health. Smoking habit is strongly related with increased stroke risk. Even a small number of cigarettes (cigarette, pipe or cigar) per day is related to stroke occurence. The chemical componentes that constitutes cigarettes smoke is inhaled to the lungs and there it gets the blood stream, enabling it to affect almost every cell, specially the cells that compose the vessels leading to arteries damage. Therefore, smoke must be stopped always! The benefits associated with smoke suspension are real and strong, and starts right after you stop inhale the chemical toxins of tobacco.
The medical term arterial hypertension is really important and referes to the increased blood pressure into the arteries that carrers blood from the heart to the whole body, including the brain. The normal arterial pressure rate is 120/80 mmHg (or "12 by 8"). When blood pressure is elevated it causes damage to the brain arterial walls that could lead to a stroke. Hypertension treatment is very important because it decreases the stroke and myocardial infarction risk! Even if one has a blood pressure just a little bit above the normal rate a doctor should be consulted to seek adequate treatment as soon as possible.
Diabetes is caused by a deficiency of a specific hormone called insuline or by the resistance to it. These hormone is essential to body glucose (sugar) metabolism. For these reason diabetic patients have increased "blood sugar" levels. Therefore, the objective of diabetic treatment is to maintain glucose near to the normal rates. Well controlled diabetes with specific dietary modifications and, sometimes, medicines decreases the rate of circulatory problems. Nonetheless, patients with diabetes should also take care of their hypertension.
It is well know that physical activity diminishes risk for vascular diseases. Sedentary life style leads to weight gain predisposing to hypertension, diabetes, adequate cholesterol blood levels, all of them related to stroke risk. Start a regular physical activity program, for example jogging three times in a week, brings strong benefits for health maintenance.
Diet and cholesterol
The excess of fat on the blood (called dyslipidemia), specially cholesterol, leads to the formation of cholesterol plaques into the artery walls. These plaques diminishes the vessel lumen and reduce the blood flow through them, increasing the risk of a stroke. You can easily change this context by dietary modifications, specifically decreasing animal fat ingestion.
Obesity must be controlled, specifically because its association with diabetes, sedentary behavior, hypertension and dyslipidemia. To accomplish the task of better dietary behaviors and weight loss you should consult your doctor and nutritionist.
Alchohol and drugs
Excessive alcohol intake associates with increased stroke risk. Routine alcohol intake leads to hypertension and increased cholesterol levels - risk factors already mentioned.
Cocaine and Crack use is capable to damage arterial walls and to promote hypertensive events, being associated to stroke development.
Oral contraceptives could be associated with stroke events, especially in smoking women, or with hypertension or migraines. It is really important that you consult your doctor for good clinical orientation. Don"t take any decisions to stop the medications before talking to your doctor.
Tips and important facts:
- Decrease dietary fat intake.
- Adopting a healthy diet improve physical capabilities and decrease cardiovascular diseases risk (stroke, infarction).
- Smoking cessation decreases even more the risk for stroke ans is very effective.
- Regular physical activities improve circulation and helps to diminish other risk factors.
- If you have hypertension do your best to take your medicines as your doctor orientations, even if you don"t have symptoms because these diseases sometimes are silent but already doing harm.
- If you have diabetes you should take your medications and dietary orientations exactly as expected aiming a normal rate of blood glucose.
- If you detected any of the risk factors described above you should look for your doctor.
- The probability of a stroke increases with the accumulation of risk factors.
- To prevent a stroke is much more easier than treat it after it occurred.