Live your life stroke-free

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Stroke can lead to paralysis if not given prompt medical attention. BBC Panorama/AFP

Did you know that close to 800,000 people worldwide experience a stroke every year? That roughly translates to one person every 40 seconds. While the figure may seem scary, it is also reported that 80 percent of stroke attacks can be avoided. Learn how by reading through this article. But first, let us discuss what happens to our bodies when a stroke takes place.

A stroke, also known as a ‘brain attack’ typically occurs when a certain area of the brain does not receive adequate blood supply. When this happens, the brain cells will suffer from oxygen deprivation, which subsequently cause them to die. This will then lead to loss of brain functions.

The extent of the ‘damage’ caused by a stroke is highly dependent on where the stroke occurs in the brain. This could range from temporary loss of strength in an arm or leg, to permanent paralysis on one side of the body. According to Medical News Today, more than two-thirds of stroke survivors will suffer from some type of disability. To minimise brain damage, a stroke requires prompt medical attention.

There are three main types of stroke: ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA). It is important to learn about the different types of stroke as they are caused by different reasons, thus would require different kinds of treatment.

Ischemic stroke

What is it: This is the most common type of stroke. In fact, it accounts for more than 80 per cent of all stroke cases. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot obstructs the vessel carrying blood to the brain. It can be caused by several different kinds of health complications such as gradual cholesterol deposition, high blood pressure and blood clots in the heart which may travel to the brain.

Possible treatments: Medication with clot-dissolving properties, injection of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) or an endovascular procedure to remove the clot with a stent retriever.

Hemorrhagic stroke

What is it: As opposed to ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery bursts and starts bleeding into the surrounding brain. The pressure from the leaked blood subsequently damages brain cells thus affecting brain functions. One of the most common causes of this type of stroke is hypertension ‑- a long-term medical condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure.

Possible treatments: It can begin with drugs to control overall blood pressure. Once the bleeding stops, treatment usually involves supportive medical care. Other option is surgical blood vessel repair.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

What is it: It is more commonly known as a mini-stroke. This is when you really need to listen to your body as a mini-stroke usually foreshadows a bigger health concern. TIA, essentially, is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. People often make the mistake of ignoring TIA since it rarely causes permanent damage, it’s often ignored. Symptoms include sudden onset of slurring, numbness and blurry vision. The American Stroke Association warned: “When you first notice symptoms, get help immediately.”

Possible treatments: Aside from being prescribed with medications to treat the underlying cause of your TIA, doctors will also likely advocate for lifestyle changes to reduce the risk for stroke.

Risk factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Other heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Lifestyle changes to prevent stroke

Watch what you eat

Too much of anything is bad for us. This especially applies to our diet. To reduce the risk of stroke, it is crucial to not indulge in food with high salt content or food that has been processed because they can easily induce high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. The National Health Survey suggests a low-fat, high-fibre diet including fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. It also recommends no more than 6g (one teaspoonful) of salt a day.

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle

You don’t have to morph into a fitness buff overnight. You just have to find ways to maintain a healthy weight, based on your daily schedule. Working out regularly can help lower your cholesterol and keep your blood pressure healthy. For most of us, it is recommended to take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate-level aerobic activities every week. However, if you are recovering from a stroke, it is best to discuss an exercise plan with medical professionals first.

Stop smoking

Considering there are various harmful substances in a cigarette, it is not hard to see why smoking is highly discouraged. Aside from thickening the blood, tobacco smoke can also increase the risk of blood clots and restricting oxygen in the blood. It is reported that smokers are twice as likely to die if they have a stroke. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you are six times more likely to have a stroke compared to a non-smoker. Give up smoking today as you begin your journey to a healthier life.

How to know if you are having a stroke?

The symptoms may vary and at times may even be unidentifiable but a number of medical professionals had recommended the acronym F.A.S.T. to help identify if you are indeed experiencing a stroke attack:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call emergency at 119

We can strive to keep an optimum level of health through an active lifestyle and a balanced diet. However, there are always ways for us to do more. Opt for a protection plan by contacting an AIA Cambodia at 086 999 242 to inquire further about their life insurance solution which covers 26 conditions of critical illnesses and medical operations in Cambodia and overseas.

Sources: WebMD, World Health Organisation, Mayo Clinic, American Stroke Association, Medical News Today, National Health Survey and Medline Plus.

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