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Our brains use up about one-fifth or 20% of our total oxygen supply. Indeed, the brain needs a lot of energy to accomplish all the things it does; and for that, it needs a continuous supply of oxygenated blood.

If the brain doesn’t get oxygen for three to four minutes, brain cells start to die. Every minute that the brain goes without oxygen, some two million brain cells die. Within minutes, enough brain cells could die to cause permanent brain damage, brain death and even death. (Read more: Hypoxia symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment)

This is what happens in a stroke.

There are three main ways in which a stroke can occur: one, a brain haemorrhage leaks blood into the surrounding tissue and cuts off the oxygen supply to a section of the brain; two, ischemic stroke occurs due to plaque build-up in the arteries that supply blood to the brain; and three, a blood clot in the arteries that run through the neck blocks the blood supply to the brain.

Data show that one out of every four adults alive today will have a stroke at some point in their lives. Data also show that four out of five of the brain strokes that do occur are preventable.

Indeed prevention is the theme of World Stroke Day 2020—a day has been observed on 29 October since 2006, when the World Stroke Organisation started it to raise awareness about strokes, a leading cause of disability and death around the world.

Read on to know who is at risk for stroke and how you can prevent stroke.

  1. Who is at risk for stroke?
  2. Ways to prevent stroke
Doctors for World Stroke Day 2020: How to avoid stroke and stay healthy

Studies show that almost all strokes are related to the following risk factors:

  • Irregular, fast heartbeat or tachyarrhythmia: Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat is a major risk factor for stroke. There are, of course, different types of arrhythmias—the most common type of fast, irregular heartbeat (tachyarrhythmia) is atrial fibrillation. People with atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke.
  • Diabetes: One in five people who have a stroke have diabetes
  • Smoking: One of the harmful effects of smoking is that it increases your risk of stroke and also puts your companions and family at risk for the same due to indirect exposure. (Read more: Smoking Addiction: symptoms, causes, treatment)
  • High cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body needs for certain functions. However, high cholesterol—specifically, extra low-density lipoprotein, also known as bad cholesterol—gets deposited in the blood vessels. Over time, this makes the blood vessels narrower (atherosclerosis), obstructing the normal flow of blood and increasing the risk of blood clots and therefore stroke.
  • Alcohol overuse: Excessive consumption of alcohol is responsible for over a million strokes every year globally.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure, which often has no noticeable symptoms, is associated with more than half of all strokes. When left untreated, high blood pressure causes damage to the blood vessels which can result in a variety of health issues.
  • Obesity: Being obese increases your risk of having a stroke by 64%. A body mass index (weight to height ratio) of 30 or more may indicate obesity.

Improving one’s lifestyle may also help to prevent stroke. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of having a stroke:

  • Quitting smoking is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes that you could make. Not only does smoking thicken your blood and form clots inside the blood vessels, but it also increases the plaque build up in the arteries. Using aids such as nicotine patches, counselling and support groups could help. (Read more: How to quit smoking)
  • If you want to consume alcohol, drink in moderation to reduce your risk of getting a stroke. Two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women is the maximum limit that experts suggest.
  • If you have high blood pressure, consult a doctor for medication. To maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce your intake of saturated fats and foods with high sodium content. (Read more: Diet for people with high blood pressure)
  • If you have diabetes, maintaining blood sugar is especially important to reduce your risk of stroke. Monitoring your blood sugar as directed by your physician, along with sticking to a healthy diet and exercise, is crucial for the same. 
  • Getting around 150 hours a week of physical activity or moderate exercise like brisk walking or joining a fitness club with your friends is recommended for everyone but especially for those with hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity or a combination of these.
  • The best diet to prevent a stroke is one with fruits and vegetables of different colours—the American Heart Association suggests four servings of fruits and five of vegetables each day.
  • There is a huge amount of evidence that the Mediterranean diet helps in preventing stroke and improving cardiovascular health. This diet recommends:

You should ideally work with your doctor or a dietician to come up with a diet plan that is best for you.

Dr. Hemanth Kumar

Dr. Hemanth Kumar

Neurology
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Deepak Chandra Prakash

Dr. Deepak Chandra Prakash

Neurology
10 Years of Experience

Dr Madan Mohan Gupta

Dr Madan Mohan Gupta

Neurology
7 Years of Experience

Dr. Virender K Sheorain

Dr. Virender K Sheorain

Neurology
19 Years of Experience

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