How does a stroke occur and what can we do to prevent it?

The incidence of stroke in the population is very high: some 120,000 new cases are detected each year in Spain alone, which means that a stroke occurs every six minutes. The consequences of suffering it can be very serious. In fact, stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and also the leading cause of disability.

However, it is estimated that more than 80% of strokes could be avoided if we kept cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol levels and smoking at bay, for which it is essential to follow a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and daily physical activity . In this way we can protect ourselves from this vascular event that leaves an area of ​​the brain without blood circulation.

This is how a stroke occurs

All body tissues need oxygen and nutrients that come through the arteries. Therefore, when they block an area dependent on them, that area dies. This is what happens when you suffer a stroke, and most of them are caused by a lack of irrigation to a territory of the brain (ischemic stroke).

In turn, this circumstance is due to one of these three causes:

– Cardiac embolic cause : a thrombus forms in the heart that travels from it to the arteries of the brain, blocking them.

– Embolic cause of another vascular territory : atherosclerotic plaques (atherosclerosis) of other arterial territories occlude the arteries more distally.

– Thrombotic cause : local thrombi are formed within the cerebral arteries, which in some cases originate from blood disorders, such as the so-called “hypercoagulability syndromes”.

How to act

In the event of a cerebrovascular accident, going to the health services as soon as possible so that they treat it as early as possible is crucial if we want to minimize its consequences. For this reason, we must pay close attention to these warning signs that indicate that we may be suffering from a stroke:

– Sudden loss of strength or/and sensitivity of a part of the body (in the face, in the arm…).

– Sudden partial or total loss of vision in one or both eyes.

– Difficulty speaking -difficulty expressing oneself, language difficult to articulate or incomprehensible to the listener.

– Sudden onset headache, with no apparent cause and very intense.

– Intense vertigo, with instability, imbalance or sudden falls, if accompanied by any of the symptoms described above.

How to prevent

Not smoking and controlling all the cardiovascular risk factors mentioned above is the most effective weapon to avoid a stroke. In addition, those who suffer from atrial fibrillation must pay special attention to a healthy lifestyle, since this type of arrhythmia multiplies the risk of suffering a stroke by five, and in fact it is the cause that causes it in approximately 20% of strokes ischemic.

In the case of patients who take anticoagulants that are antagonists of vitamin K to prevent the appearance of thrombi, they should periodically review their INR, a value that measures the time it takes for the blood to clot. The figure determines if anticoagulation is incorrect, a situation in which thrombosis can occur; excessive, when bleeding is possible; or is in the appropriate value, which corresponds to an INR between 2 and 3.


by Abdullah Sam
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