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Stroke, is it preventable?

Barely a week into the New Year, the leading cardiovascular disease emergency in my medical practice is stroke. On New Year’s day, I was called into the hospital because a patient had a stroke. Two cases followed immediately after. One is left to wonder, is stroke preventable or not?

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in adults. It is caused by the blockage of blood flow in the brain leading to loss of function in the part of the body affected, such as inability to move the leg, arm and part of the face. It can also present as inability to speak, or difficulty in swallowing.

There are risk factors to stroke; some are modifiable, why some are not modifiable. By modifiable, I mean we can do something about these risk factors, in other words, we can change them and possibly prevent stroke.

Risk factors to stroke that cannot be changed include age, sex (commoner in males), race (common in blacks), personal or family history of stroke. While modifiable risk factors includes;

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking, including passive smoking or secondhand smoking
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Cardiovascular disease that includes heart failure or abnormal heart rhythm
  • Use of birth control pills or hormonal therapy that contains estrogen
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, etc.
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Lack of exercise or sedentary lifestyle
  • Depression

Therefore, we may be able to prevent stroke by working against the above listed modifiable risk factors, by initiating a heart healthy lifestyle; get to know your blood pressure and control it if high, don’t smoke or quit if you are already smoking, know your cholesterol level and control it if high. Avoid alcohol abuse, exercise regularly (5 times a week), maintain a healthy weight and learn to manage stress and don’t give in to depression.

Lastly, remember stroke is a medical emergency, at the earliest sign or symptoms of possible stroke seek the help of your doctor.  Early treatment could be life saving and help prevent future permanent disability.

About Dr Emeka Okocha

Consultant Cardiologist with interest in preventive cardiology

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