Stroke: What’s your risk of the deadly brain attack?

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An ischaemic stroke occurs due to a blockage of blood supply to the brain, whereas a haemorrhagic stroke occurs when there’s a bleed on the brain. Both can result in dire consequences.

The Stroke Association pointed out that you must act FAST if you see any warning signs of a stroke:

  • F – Facial weakness. Can the person smile?
  • A – Arm weakness. Can the person raise both arms?
  • S – Speech problems. Can the person speak clearly?
  • T – Time to call 999 if you have any of these signs.

“Most strokes happen when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain [i.e. an ischaemic stroke],” explained the Stroke Association.

“Blood clots usually form in areas where the arteries have become narrowed or ‘furred’ up by fatty deposits (atherosclerosis).”

Increasing age is a stroke risk factor we simply don’t have control over, but you have the power to minimise other risk factors.

For example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can increase your risk of a stroke.

High blood pressure (i.e. hypertension) can damage your arteries, so you need to aim for a blood pressure reading less than 120/80mmHg.

Blood pressure readings can be taken at home with a blood pressure monitor, or at the pharmacy or in the GP’s office.

High cholesterol can be dangerous, as too much cholesterol in your blood can lead to atherosclerosis.

Cholesterol is found in meat and dairy products, and the liver, so a healthy diet is paramount to reduce how much is floating in your bloodstream.

Diabetes is a condition whereby there is too much sugar in the blood, which can also trigger fatty deposits to build up in the arteries.

Another risk factor is if you have “atrial fibrillation” – a type of irregular heartbeat.

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“When the heart beats irregularly, blood clots can form and travel to the brain,” explained the Stroke Association.

Having this condition increases your risk of a stroke by “up to five times”.

You’re also more likely to develop atrial fibrillation if you are over 65 years of age.

Heart disease, or having had a heart attack, increases your risk of a stroke.

How to prevent a stroke

In order to minimise your risk of a stroke, you have to be a non-smoker.

Smokers are twice as likely to suffer from a stroke than a non-smoker; this is because smoking makes your blood more likely to clot.

Furthermore, smoking contributes to atherosclerosis – the process of arteries becoming “furred up” with fatty deposits.

“Stopping smoking will reduce your risk of a stroke – no matter how old you are or how long you have smoked,” testified the Stroke Association.

Drinking sensibly in terms of alcohol consumption is key to managing your blood pressure.

The weekly limit for men and women is 14 units of alcohol, spread out across the week.

The Stroke Associations advises “drinking more slowly, drinking with food,

and alternating with water” when it comes to celebratory occasions that you’d like to drink at.

It’s also advises to limit “the total amount of alcohol you drink on any occasion”.

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