Stroke Prevention & Treatment

By:    Published: July 21, 2011

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Prevention

Strokes can be unpredictable, as blood vessel blockages can occur without symptoms or warning signs. The severity of each episode depends on the extent of brain damage, as symptoms usually do not appear until the first signs of tissue death. Precautionary methods can certainly be taken to avoid risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. While these medical conditions happen partly due to genetics, modifications in diet and lifestyle can still decrease one's susceptibility to strokes.

See Your Doctor

Medical professionals recommend undergoing annual physical exams as a preventative measure for all possible medical conditions. During your checkup, a doctor will ask a series of questions regarding diet and lifestyle habits. These questions can help the physician determine whether such factors can place the patient at risk for problems later in life, since chronic conditions usually develop as a consequence of years of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Usually, routine blood tests are run as part of the physical to screen cholesterol and glucose levels, and it is important follow up and discuss the test results with the doctor, so he or she can give appropriate health advice and tips to help correct unhealthy behaviors that may increase the susceptibility to stroke.

Routinely seeing a doctor can also help keep preexisting medical conditions in check and under control, especially if there is a family or personal history of high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Sometimes, doctors may recommend a daily supplement of an anticoagulant, such as aspirin, for individuals who are more prone to thrombus formation. However, be sure to consult a doctor before implementing any self-remedies, since each individual varies case by case.

Adopt an Active Lifestyle

Doctors generally recommend at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily to keep the body healthy. An active lifestyle can help prevent stroke symptoms by relieving stress, lowering cholesterol, keeping blood pressure under control and maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity, which a very common medical condition, is one of the major risk factors of stroke, as it often accompany type II diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Exercising can help to retain a healthy body mass index (BMI) and keep stroke at bay. Seeking a doctor's advice on an exercise plan formulated for your body's composition is strongly encouraged.

Treat Your Body Well

Remember the phrase: You are what you eat. It is important to take care of your body and to make sure everything consumed is healthy and nutritious. Generally, foods high in saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol and sugar should be avoided. A high-fiber diet can help keep cholesterol under control, so a diet with ample amounts of complex grains, fruits and vegetables will help prevent stroke. In addition, a lean, balanced diet will help maintain a healthy weight and ward off obesity. Since every individual's body needs and composition is different, it is important to talk to a medical professional or registered dietician to consult a nutrition plan that works for you before attempting any self-remedied diet plans.

Smoking can increase the chance of a stroke, as cigarette smoke inhalation has been shown to increase the body's level of carbon monoxide and to harden arteries. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to cases of high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. It is advisable to seek a physician for ways to help quit smoking, as well as moderating alcohol intake.

Stroke Treatment

A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment in order to prevent worsening complications and irreversible brain damage. It is very important to receive treatment for stroke within an hour and a half after the first signs of symptom. Usually, patients will be admitted to a specialized stroke unit, if they are available in the hospital, and medical doctors will first confirm the diagnosis of stroke as well as the type, as ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes has very different treatment plans. Additional testing may also be run to help the doctor pinpoint the precise location of the blockage or leakage.

For an ischemic stroke, medical professionals may give the patient anticoagulant medications, such as tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) or a variation of aspirin, to help dissolve the thrombus. Direct injections into the skull at the blockage site may help dissolve the clot in more serious episodes. In the case of a hemorrhagic stroke, treatment will vary based on the cause of the leakage as well as the extent of the already-inflicted damage. The physician will try to control and stop the bleeding within the brain by regulating other factors that may encourage leakage, such as blood pressure. In more serious cases, doctors may choose to drain the pooled blood in the skull by needles and catheters to relieve pressure, hopefully halting further tissue damage.

Stroke patients may develop disabilities due to extensive brain damage, and may need long-term therapy and rehabilitation to recover. Sometimes, affected individuals are not able to regain basic functions, while others may recover almost completely. Hence, it is imperative to call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a stroke.

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