How to Prevent a Stroke?

How to Prevent a Stroke ASPIRIN

Overview

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke. A TIA usually lasts only a few minutes and doesn’t cause permanent damage.

Often called a ministroke, a transient ischemic attack may be a warning. About 1 in 3 people who have a transient ischemic attack will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after the transient ischemic attack.

A transient ischemic attack can serve as both a warning of a future stroke and an opportunity to prevent it.

Symptoms

Transient ischemic attacks usually last a few minutes. Most signs and symptoms disappear within an hour, though rarely symptoms may last up to 24 hours. The signs and symptoms of a TIA resemble those found early in a stroke and may include sudden onset of:

  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg, typically on one side of your body
  • Slurred or garbled speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Blindness in one or both eyes or double vision
  • Vertigo or loss of balance or coordination

You may have more than one TIA, and the recurrent signs and symptoms may be similar or different depending on which area of the brain is involved.

When to see a doctor

Since TIAs most often occur hours or days before a stroke, seeking medical attention emergently following a possible TIA is essential. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you’ve had a transient ischemic attack. Prompt evaluation and identification of potentially treatable conditions may help you prevent a stroke.

 

How to Prevent a Stroke After a Tia

What can you do to prevent a stroke? Age makes us more susceptible to having a stroke, as does having a mother, father, or another close relative who has had a stroke.

You can’t reverse the years or change your family history, but there are many other stroke risk factors that you can control—provided that you’re aware of them. “Knowledge is power,” says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and associate director of the Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If you know that a particular risk factor is sabotaging your health and predisposing you to a higher risk of stroke, you can take steps to alleviate the effects of that risk.”

How to prevent stroke

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today to avoid stroke, before a stroke has the chance to strike.

1. Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. “High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke in both men and women,” Dr. Rost says. “Monitoring blood pressure and, if it is elevated, treating it, is probably the biggest difference people can make to their vascular health.”

Your ideal goal: Maintain a blood pressure of less than 135/85. But for some, a less aggressive goal (such as 140/90) may be more appropriate.

How to achieve it:

  • Reduce the salt in your diet to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day (about a half teaspoon).
  • Avoid high-cholesterol foods, such as burgers, cheese, and ice cream.
  • Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, and several daily servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Get more exercise — at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and more, if possible.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke.

If needed, take blood pressure medicines.

2. Lose weight

Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you’re overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a real impact on your stroke risk.

Your goal: While an ideal body mass index (BMI) is 25 or less, that may not be realistic for you. Work with your doctor to create a personal weight loss strategy.

How to achieve it:

  • Try to eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day (depending on your activity level and your current BMI).
  • Increase the amount of exercise you do with activities like walking, golfing, or playing tennis, and by making activity part of every single day.

3. Exercise more

Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer.

Your goal: Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week.

How to achieve it:

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood every morning after breakfast.
  • Start a fitness club with friends.
  • When you exercise, reach the level at which you’re breathing hard, but you can still talk.
  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator when you can.
  • If you don’t have 30 consecutive minutes to exercise, break it up into 10- to 15-minute sessions a few times each day.

4. If you drink — do it in moderation

Drinking a little alcohol may decrease your risk of stroke. “Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower,” says to Dr. Rost. “Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.”

Your goal: Don’t drink alcohol or do it in moderation.

How to achieve it:

  • Have no more than one glass of alcohol a day.
  • Make red wine your first choice, because it contains resveratrol, which is thought to protect the heart and brain.
  • Watch your portion sizes. A standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.

5. Treat atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain, producing a stroke. “Atrial fibrillation carries almost a fivefold risk of stroke, and should be taken seriously,” Dr. Rost says.

Your goal: If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated.

How to achieve it:

  • If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor for an exam.
  • You may need to take an anticoagulant drug (blood thinner) such as warfarin (Coumadin) or one of the newer direct-acting anticoagulant drugs to reduce your stroke risk from atrial fibrillation. Your doctors can guide you through this treatment.

6. Treat diabetes

Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them.

Your goal: Keep your blood sugar under control.

How to achieve it:

  • Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor.
  • Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.

7. Quit smoking

Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. “Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that will help you reduce your stroke risk significantly,” Dr. Rost says.

Your goal: Quit smoking.

How to achieve it:

  • Ask your doctor for advice on the most appropriate way for you to quit.
  • Use quit-smoking aids, such as nicotine pills or patches, counseling, or medicine.
  • Don’t give up. Most smokers need several tries to quit. See each attempt as bringing you one step closer to successfully beating the habit.

Identify a stroke F-A-S-T

Too many people ignore the signs of stroke because they question whether their symptoms are real. “My recommendation is, don’t wait if you have any unusual symptoms,” Dr. Rost advises. Listen to your body and trust your instincts. If something is off, get professional help right away.”

The National Stroke Association has created an easy acronym to help you remember, and act on, the signs of a stroke. Cut out this image and post it on your refrigerator for easy reference.

Signs and Symptoms of Ministroke (TIA)

What is a ministroke or TIA?

A ministroke is also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It occurs when part of the brain experiences a temporary lack of blood flow. This causes stroke-like symptoms that resolve within 24 hours.

Unlike a stroke, a ministroke on its own doesn’t cause permanent disabilities. Since ministroke symptoms and stroke symptoms are nearly identical, you should seek immediate emergency attention if you experience any symptoms.

Knowing the signs of a ministroke can help you get the treatment you need as early as possible. Around 1 in 3 people who experience a ministroke later experience a stroke, so early treatment is essential.

What are the symptoms of a ministroke?

A ministroke can be difficult to identify, but a few symptoms may indicate that you’ve had one. The symptoms may be fleeting.

The most common symptoms of a ministroke are:

  • dysphasia, a language disorder
  • dysarthria, or physical difficulty when speaking
  • vision changes
  • confusion
  • balance issues
  • tingling
  • an altered level of consciousness
  • dizziness
  • passing out
  • severe headache
  • an abnormal sense of taste
  • an abnormal sense of smell
  • weakness or numbness on just the right or left side of the face or body, determined by the location of the blood clot in the brain

Call your local emergency services or go to the emergency room (ER) if you’re having any of these symptoms.

Dysphasia

People with a ministroke may temporarily find themselves unable to speak. After a ministroke, people may tell their doctor that they had difficulty recalling words during the event. Other speech problems may include trouble saying a word or trouble understanding words.

This condition is known as dysphasia. In fact, dysphasia is sometimes the only symptom of a ministroke.

Trouble speaking indicates that the blockage or blood clot that caused the ministroke occurred in the dominant brain hemisphere.

Temporary blindness in one eye

Sometimes a ministroke manifests as a particular visual disturbance known as amaurosis fugax. Amaurosis fugax is also known as transient monocular blindness (TMB).

In amaurosis fugax, a person’s vision in one eye becomes suddenly dimmed or obscured. The world turns gray or objects look blurry. This may last for seconds or minutes. Exposure to bright light can aggravate amaurosis fugax. You may not be able to read words on white pages.

What are the causes of a ministroke?

Blood clots are the leading cause of ministrokes. Other common causes of this condition include:

  • hypertension, or high blood pressure
  • atherosclerosis, or narrowed arteries caused by plaque buildup, in or around the brain
  • carotid artery disease, which occurs when the internal or external carotid artery of the brain is blocked (usually caused by atherosclerosis)
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
How long does a ministroke last?

The symptoms of a ministroke can last as briefly as one minute. By definition, ministrokes last for fewer than 24 hours.

Often, the symptoms are gone by the time you get to a doctor. Your symptoms may not be present while a doctor evaluates you, so you have to describe the event after your symptoms have disappeared.

Duration aside, symptoms of a ministroke are the same as symptoms of an ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke.

3 Ways to Avoid a Second Stroke

Stroke is a serious business. It’s the second leading cause of death in the world and fifth in the United States.

Even after surviving a stroke, you’re not out of the woods, since having one makes it a lot more likely that you’ll have another. In fact, of the 795,000 Americans who will have a first stroke this year, 23 percent will suffer a second stroke.

What can stroke patients do to avoid a recurrence?

It turns out that stroke has a lot in common, risk-wise, with diabetes, cardiovascular problems, hypertension, and other chronic conditions. Here are three ways to strike out a second stroke (or avoid stroke altogether):

3 Prevention Tips

  1. Stop smoking.

    The list of illnesses caused or worsened by smoking is a long one. Cutting out tobacco eases dangerous stress on the blood vessels in your brain—as well as in your heart and elsewhere. You’ll also lower your risk for a range of cancers.

  2. Take your medicine.

    If your doctor has prescribed medicine to help you control your cholesterol, blood pressure, or diabetes, don’t slack off or skip doses.

    Not taking your medicine is an important risk factor for repeat stroke. According to one study in patients with coronary artery disease, those patients who took 75 percent or less of their medications as prescribed had a four times higher risk of stroke than patients who took their medications exactly as directed.

    Even if you’re recovering from a stroke and you feel better, it’s essential to keep high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes under control by taking every pill you’re prescribed every time and not discontinuing medications until your doctor gives you the go-ahead.

    Prescription medications can’t cure you of these chronic problems, but they can lower the risk of bad consequences such as stroke, secondary stroke, and heart attack.

  3. Go the Mediterranean.

    a recently published study by Johns Hopkins stroke expert Victor C. Urrutia, with Jennifer Dearborn and Walter Kernan from Yale University School of Medicine, showed that stroke patients can likely prevent another occurrence by eating well.

    Although it’s difficult to capture data on people’s long-term dietary habits, the researchers pooled results from a number of studies and found that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of stroke.

    The study found that “Dietary patterns consumed along the Mediterranean, consisting of abundant fruits and vegetables [and] whole grains and low in processed foods, with a substantial polyunsaturated source of fat, such as olive oil, are consistently associated with a reduced rate of stroke.”

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