The Relationship of Heart Health and Stroke

Stroke, also known as cerebrovascular accident, is the loss of brain function due to impeded blood supply of the brain. Stroke is a medical emergency that can cause irreversible neurological damage, complications and death. It is the second leading cause of death around the world and the leading cause of adult disability in Europe and the United States.

Risk Factors
The risk factors of stroke are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, transient ischemic attack, atherosclerosis, smoking, carotid artery disease, and diabetes. The risk factors of stroke are often associated with heart health or the cardiovascular system. Having a healthy cardiovascular system will reduce the risk of stroke in an individual.

A stroke happens when the brain lacks oxygen supply. Oxygen to the brain is supplied by the cardiovascular system in the form of blood. The heart pumps blood to arteries that will in return supply oxygenated blood to the brain. Any problem with the pumping system of the heart and the arteries that carry blood to the brain may cause obstruction of oxygen supply. When obstruction happens, stroke will occur. Brain tissue function will halt if there are 60 to 90 seconds of oxygen deprivation. After 3 hours of impeded oxygen supply, permanent damage will lead to brain tissue death. Brain tissues are responsible for the different body functions such as breathing, speaking and moving. If brain tissues die, disability or death will occur.

Cardiovascular problems such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and atrial fibrillation are one type of the causes of stroke. Most of the clots form by hardened plaques (atherosclerosis) due to high cholesterol, from within the heart. That is why atherosclerosis and high cholesterol are related to stroke. When clots dislodge from the artery wall, it can travel to an artery of the brain and cause obstruction of blood supply. The same goes with hypertension. High blood pressure can cause dislodgement of plaques leading to obstruction. Hypertension can also damage the brain's arterial wall because too much blood pressure causes ruptures of arteries. Rupture will eventually lead to clots that will cause obstruction. On the other hand, atrial fibrillation causes decrease of blood supply. When there is not enough blood supply to the brain, tissue death may occur.

If an individual is having a stroke, he or she will experience sudden body weakness or numbness of the face, leg or arm on one side of the body. Aside from this, the individual will also experience dimness or loss of vision in one eye, abnormal speech, difficulty of understanding what others are talking about, sudden severe headache, unsteady gait, difficulty to balance, dizziness, altered breathing, and altered heart rate.

If oxygen supply to the brain is not given immediate attention, permanent damage to brain functions may occur. The damage will depend on the location or part of the brain that is responsible for specific functions. Some of the complications of brain damage are disability, paralysis, altered senses, breathing problems, and loss of speech.

The cause of stroke needs to be known first before starting treatments. Diagnostic exams like CT-Scan and MRI are used. There should be close monitoring of treatment effectiveness and the patient's reaction to treatment. There are medications that will dissolve the clot formation in the arteries.

Tissue Plasminogen Activator (TPA) is the drug of choice to dissolve clots. The earlier the medication is given, the less chance of damage and complications. It is recommended that it must be given within 4 1/2 hours after the onset of symptoms.

Heparin and aspirin are also given to stroke patients.

Anti hypertensive drugs are also given when high blood pressure is the cause of the stroke.

Brain surgery is also performed to remove blood clots.

Maintenance drugs are given to patients after surviving a stroke. Lifestyle change is strongly recommended by medical health professionals. These two things are very important to prevent another stroke.

Lifestyle change is one key factor in preventing stroke and having a healthy heart. Eating the right kinds of food and avoiding foods that are high in fats, sugar and salt are recommended to avoid high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol. Having regular physical activity or exercise is important to have good circulation. The cessation of smoking and control of diabetes is also advised because these two things increase blood pressure.


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