- Strokes usually happen when a person’s brain can’t get the oxygen it needs. They can also be prompted by sudden bleeding in the brain.
- When the brain can’t get oxygenated blood, brain cells die or suffer damage, and the parts of the body those brain cells control can go haywire.
- This can result in paralysis, numbness, weakness, dementia, difficulty communicating, or trouble seeing. Strokes can be fatal.
- There’s a lot people can do to reduce their risk of having a stroke: Moving around, eating fresh foods, and breathing clean air are some of the best strategies.
When our brains can’t get the oxygen they need, strokes can happen.
Strokes are a result of damage to brain cells. Most commonly, that’s prompted by a lack of oxygenated blood flow — an event called an ischemic stroke. Bleeding in the brain can also cause a different kind of brain attack called a hemorrhagic stroke.
This sudden brain change can be fatal: Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the US. More than 142,000 Americans died from strokes in 2016. This means that on average, someone dies from a stroke every four minutes in the US.
A person having a stroke might show some outward signs, such as slurring their speech or having trouble speaking or seeing. A couple other tell-tale indicators can be if half of a person’s face droops when they try to smile or they’re unable to raise both of their arms and keep them at the same level.
But according to the National Stroke Association, 80% of strokes are preventable. That means there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk. What’s more, the steps people can take to avoid strokes are some of the best ways to keep your body and brain healthy as you age overall.
Here are 11 straightforward things that science has linked to a higher risk of a debilitating or deadly stroke.
High blood pressure is the main culprit.
When pressure builds up in a person’s blood vessels, the extra stress on their arteries can make it challenging for the brain to get the oxygen-rich blood it needs. Over time, this can lead to a stroke.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to lower your blood pressure, like exercising regularly, eating healthy food, and breathing clean air.
Heavy drinking increases blood pressure, making strokes more likely.
A major study published in The Lancet this week showed that the more we drink, the higher our blood pressure and risk of stroke. The researchers analyzed health data from 500,000 Chinese men and over 10 years, and found that people who drank less had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of stroke. Overall, the researchers found that the risk of having a stroke increases by 35% for every four alcoholic drinks consumed per day.
The National Stroke Association recommends "no more than two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women."
Smokers double their risk of a stroke.
The chemicals in tobacco can cause people’s arteries to narrow and can also damage the lining of their artery walls, prompting a spike in blood pressure.
When a smoker inhales, the action triggers an immediate blood-pressure spike, and smokers can develop long-lasting problems in their blood vessels over time.
"Smoking increases clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries," according to the National Stroke Association.
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