Strokes afflict approximately 120,000 people in Spain every year. They are one of the leading causes of death amongst adults in developed countries, and yet perhaps as many as 90% of strokes are preventable.
Effective treatment may be greatly enhanced with early detection and rapid response, but the outright prevention of strokes can be achieved via a number of actions including physical exercise and a balanced diet.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.
How to lower the risk of suffering a stroke
- Follow a healthy diet low in salt and saturated fats.
- Lose weight.
- Lead an active life with regular exercise.
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Stop smoking.
- Drink in moderation.
- Get periodical medical check-ups.
- Lower stress.
Non-modifiable risk factors
The above are behaviours that we can modify. However, there are other factors that lie beyond our control and increase the odds of suffering a stroke.
Age is a key non-modifiable risk factor – the older a person is, the greater the likelihood of suffering from a stroke. Gender is another one, since strokes affect women more frequently than men. Prior cardiac pathologies and a family history of strokes also increases the chances of suffering from one.
Types of strokes
There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. The first accounts for a majority of cases, maybe as much as 75%, and occurs when the artery becomes blocked and blood cannot get through. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when an artery is ruptured and bleeds out.
The acronym FAST helps remind us of the different symptoms:
- Face. Part of the face droops.
- Arm. An arm (or sometimes a leg) becomes limp without strength.
- Speech. Words and speech cannot be articulated correctly.
- Time. It is vital to call 112 as soon as possible – at the earliest suspicion that something is wrong.
In addition, dizziness, lack of balance or sudden headaches are also common signs that a stroke is underway.