A stroke happens when a blood vessel is blocked or clogged preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the brain. When this happens, cells die. There are two types of strokes: 1) Ischemic strokes occur when blood clots in the vessel because of fatty deposits which may also travel from another part of the body. 2) Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain. Sometimes the pressure caused in the brain tissue results in injury. Without oxygen, brain cells cannot function and they die.
What are your risk factors? If you have high blood pressure; smoke cigarettes; have diabetes; have high blood cholesterol; are overweight; lack physical activity; suffer from artery disease or heart disease; experience TIA (Transient Ischemic Attacks) mini-strokes; or have abnormal heart rhythms, you are at risk for strokes. If you experience mini-strokes, it is predictive of having a major stroke in the future. If you are experiencing symptoms, do not wait. Call 9-1-1 immediately. If symptoms can be controlled within one hour, most damage can be reversed. If a person waits, the damage can be permanent.
What are the effects of a stroke? The effects of a stroke can vary. The brain is the control center for the body. Depending on which part of the brain is damaged, a stroke can cause problems with movement, speech, vision, memory and behavior.
These are the warning signs of a stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion; trouble understanding or speaking
- Sudden trouble seeing
- Sudden dizziness, difficulty walking, loss of coordination or balance
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
What can you do to prevent strokes? What is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Twenty to twenty-five percent of the oxygen in the body is used in the brain which has to be pumped from the heart. A good brisk walk or low impact exercise is extremely important to keep your brain and heart in good health. Sometimes injury or illness changes the way you exercise. Yoga, Tai Chi and water walking are wonderful forms of low impact exercising. Secondly, eat a low fat and high fiber diet. Keep your weight within reasonable boundaries. Read; do crossword puzzles; play Sodoku or follow the brain exercises offered on a number of websites including AARP. Do not sit in front of the TV all day in your lounge chair. Keep actively engaged socially. Studies have shown that those who are actively involved in community and social activities age well. Drink alcohol in moderation (1 drink for women, 2 drinks for men). Do not smoke. Follow your doctors orders and take your medication correctly. Know your numbers and keep them in line. You will have a great chance of aging well.