You can prevent a stroke only after you educate yourself about it.
A person suffers a stroke when there is cessation of blood flow to a certain area of the brain. This results in a neurologic symptom, depending on the area of the brain involved.
Symptoms of Stroke
The usual symptoms of a stroke include weakness in a leg, an arm or an entire one side of the body. Sometimes one side of the face is affected causing slurred speech, difficulty in swallowing and deviation of the angle of the mouth to one side.
Sometimes a stroke may cause blurry vision, imbalance, confusion and even lack of consciousness.
Stroke is the number three cause of death in the U.S.; It affects one person every fifty three seconds.
The general assumption that stroke is a disease of old age is not true. According to the Framingham Heart Study, 28% of people who suffer a stroke each year are under the age of 65.
The incidence of stroke starts rising after the age of 45 and more than doubles each successive decade after the age of 55.
Survivors of stroke and their families face a very different quality of life than they once enjoyed. About 50% of stroke survivors live with permanent disabilities such as difficulty in walking, impaired speech, difficulty in self-care and memory loss.
Many of these individuals lose their independence and need help with daily living. Many stroke survivors end up in nursing homes. They visit the hospital numerous times with all sorts of medical problems including frequent pneumonias, recurrent strokes, heart attacks and bedsores.
Most become depressed. Their families also experience physical, emotional and economic turmoil.
Prevention of stroke is the key to this huge problem .
What are the different types of stroke?
There are three types of strokes:
1. Ischemic strokes
2. Embolic strokes
3. Hemorrhagic strokes
Ischemic strokes are the most common type of strokes. These strokes take place when a clot forms in an already narrowed blood vessel of the brain.
A Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA, is a minor ischemic stroke in which there is no permanent neurologic deficit.
TIAs are common in people who are at high risk for stroke.
Sometimes a clot forms inside the heart, dislodges, travels to the brain and blocks a small blood vessel there. This is what is called an embolic stroke.
Occasionally there is bleeding inside the brain. This causes a hemorrhagic stroke.
Am I at risk for Stroke?
You are at risk for a stroke if you have any of the following risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the higher the risk for having a stroke.
1. Age over 45.
2. Overweight, especially around the waistline. It is also called abdominal obesity (waistline more than 35 inches in females and more than 38 inches in males).
3. High blood pressure (more than 130/80, even in a physician’s office)
4. Low HDL cholesterol (less than 55 mg/dl in females and less than 45 mg/dl in males)
5. High triglycerides (more than 150 mg/dl)
6. Impaired glucose tolerance (blood glucose between 140 mg/dl and 200 mg/dl at 2 hours after 75 grams of a glucose drink, in an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test)
7. Impaired fasting glucose (fasting blood glucose between 100 mg/dl and 125 mg/dl.) Many people with impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance eventually develop diabetes. Therefore, these conditions are also known as “pre-diabetes.”
8. Diabetes (a fasting blood glucose more than 125 mg/dl or a 2 hour blood glucose more than 200 mg/dl in an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test)
9. High blood level of insulin, fibrinogen, homocysteine or C-reactive protein (CRP).
11. Atrial fibrillation-Irregular heart rhythm
These risk factors are silent killers, because usually these conditions do not cause any symptoms. A stroke or a heart attack is their usual first symptom. A lack of understanding about the serious consequences of the above mentioned risk factors is a big problem.
People want to ignore these risk factors as long as they feel fine. They don’t understand that by the time they have symptoms, the quality of their life may never be the same.
In my practice, often I will see a middle aged patient whose blood pressure is 140/100. When I tell them that they have high blood pressure and need drug therapy, they look surprised and question my diagnosis of hypertension. Sometimes they will say, “but my other physician didn’t say any thing about it” or “last month I had it checked at the free screening at the pharmacy and they said it was fine.” My favorite excuse is that “my blood pressure is high because I’m in your office.”
Accepting the diagnosis of high blood pressure means that your body is no longer perfect and you must do something about it. Some people take the ostrich approach. They stick their head in the sand and hope it goes away.
It’s easier to be in denial than to face reality. As long as they feel fine, they don’t want to be bothered with taking care of their high blood pressure or cholesterol disorder.
Another problem is that even if people accept the diagnosis of high blood pressure, cholesterol disorder or diabetes, they want to take care of these conditions in a “natural way.”
Often they’ve read some article in a health magazine or the Internet and want to treat their problem with a special diet or herbal supplement. Usually the results are poor to dismal.
Meanwhile, precious time has been wasted. High blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol disorder need aggressive drug treatment in addition to diet and exercise.
Unfortunately, these conditions are often not adequately treated and one day, the patient suffers a stroke or heart attack.
The root cause of stroke
In the majority of the patients, the root cause of stroke is Insulin Resistance Syndrome.
Insulin Resistance Syndrome consists of abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high glucose level (pre-diabetes or frank diabetes). All of these metabolic disorders are major risk factors for strokes.
Insulin Resistance Syndrome causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which is also known as atherosclerosis. Individuals with Insulin Resistance Syndrome are at high risk for clot formation. When a clot forms in a narrowed blood vessel, a person suffers an ischemic stroke . That’s why patients with Insulin Resistance Syndrome are at a very high risk for stroke.
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