Stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain is cut off, preventing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. This cause the brain cells to die, affecting the functions that are controlled by that part of the brain.

Stroke is a “brain-attack” and when it happens, it can be debilitating, impacting not just the victim himself but the family members as well.  The development of stroke happens silently in the body without any signs and symptoms.  Stroke would have already occurred when you start to feel the following symptoms:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm and leg
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden difficulty in seeing
  • Sudden difficulty in walking, dizziness, loss of balance and coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

There are 2 types of stroke:

  • Ischemic stroke – blood supplies to the brain is stopped due to blockage
  • Hemorrhagic stroke – blood vessels in part of the brain becomes weak and burst open causing blood to leak to the brain cells.

Given that stroke develops silently in the body, it is important that we take steps to reduce the risk factors. Here are the ways that you can take to prevent and stop stroke from happening. All of the ways are interconnected to each other in achieving an overall effect:

1) Control high blood pressure

High blood pressure is the most significant risk factor for stroke. It is the “silent killer” because you can’t feel any discomfort. High blood pressure weakens and damages blood vessels increasing the risk of hemorrhage.

It also stiffens and thickens artery wall due to constant stress load and dislodge cholesterol plaque from the blood vessel wall and travel to the brain, thereby, causing clot and stopping blood circulation.

2) Control and reduce diabetes

In diabetes, there is high level of insulin in the blood, which increases the blood pressure by the following ways:

  1. Increase the absorption of sodium from the kidney leading to fluid retention. Fluid retention increases blood pressure.
  2. Sends signal to the nerve to constrict the blood vessel, thereby increasing the blood pressure.
  3. Stimulates the growth of smooth muscle in the artery wall, constricting it and increasing the blood pressure.

2) Healthy diet

Take 7 portions of fruits and vegetables. They provide important antioxidants as well as fiber and reduce the 3 key risks: cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

Control sodium intake, which increases blood pressure and minimize saturated fat, which increase bad cholesterol.

3) Exercise

Exercise is important in helping to reduce high blood pressure by making the heart stronger. Less effort is needed by the heart to pump blood around the body. Exercise also helps to reduce diabetes and control cholesterol level. The simplest form of exercise is 30 minutes of brisk walk or climbing stairs every day.

4) Control or lose weight

Dr Ralph Sacco who led the Northern Manhattan Stroke Study showed that for every unit increase in BMI there is a 6% increase in risk. Abdominal obesity increases the risk of ischemic stroke, especially, for younger people. However, the mechanism by which obesity increase stroke risk is unknown.

5) Alcohol and smoking

Drink moderately as greater alcohol intake (more than 2 glasses a day) increases the risk of ischemic stroke. High alcohol consumption increases the risk for high blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor, and heart problems due to narrowing of the arterial wall.

If you smoke, you should quit as nicotine and carbon monoxide damage the cardiovascular system increasing the risk of stroke. Report from the Women’s Health Study show that women who smoke a pack a day increase the risk of high blood pressure.

6) Nutritional Supplements

Besides taking enough fruits and vegetables, regular nutritional supplements such as antioxidants and L-arginine will help reduce the risk of stroke. Antioxidants prevent inflammation and formation of cholesterol plaque.

L-arginine is an amino acid, which is an important precursor for Nitric Oxide generation. Nitric oxide helps to relax the blood vessel wall, leading to reduction in the blood pressure.

In the nutshell, adopting a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate way to prevent stroke from happening.

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