April 21, 2014
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Brain Health

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Brain health: FAQs

Here are the answers to 10 questions you may have about brain health.

  1. Am I at risk of having a stroke? The answer to this depends on how many risk factors for stroke you have. There are some risk factors for stroke that you can't control, such as your age, family history, gender, ethnic background, and having had a recent stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). But there are others you can control. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being obese, not exercising enough, and excessive stress. To find out about your risk for stroke and what you can do to decrease your risk, complete our Stroke Risk Assessment Quiz.
     
  2. One of my parents has Alzheimer's disease. Will I get it too? Not necessarily. Although genetics do play a role in Alzheimer's disease, it's only for 5% to 15% of people with the disease. The most significant risk factor for getting the disease is age: the older you are, the higher your risk. Other factors such as being female, having high cholesterol, having high blood pressure, or having diabetes can also play a role. Learn more about Alzheimer's disease risk factors.
     
  3. I take birth control pills. Does that increase my risk of stroke? Although older types of birth control pills were associated with an increased risk of stroke, today's birth control pills have much lower amounts of hormones in them and your risk of have a stroke is only minimally higher. However, if you smoke, have high blood pressure, are over 40, or have a problem with blood clotting, you will have a higher risk of having a stroke. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
     
  4. I hit my head. Do I need to see a doctor? If you've just bumped your head lightly, you're probably okay. But if you've suffered a significant bump or have any of the following symptoms, see your doctor:
    • unconsciousness
    • confusion
    • dizziness
    • amnesia (problems with memory)
    • ringing in the ear
    • headache
    • vomiting
    • sleep problems
    • sensitivity to light or sound
    • mood or behaviour changes
       
  5. Is there a cure for Alzheimer's disease? At this time, there is no cure, but researchers are working on understanding the cause of Alzheimer's disease in hope that it will lead to a cure in the future. Currently, the treatment of Alzheimer's involves ensuring a safe environment and medications to help with symptoms. Read "Alzheimer's disease: treatment" for more information.
     
  6. What is deep brain stimulation? Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a type of surgical procedure that involves placing electrodes in certain areas of the brain that can be stimulated by an electrical device. Deep brain stimulation has shown promise for some people with Parkinson's disease.
     
  7. What is a TIA? A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. It can cause symptoms similar to a stroke, but symptoms only last for a few minutes or hours. TIAs are also referred to as "mini-strokes." If you experience a TIA, it's important to get immediate medical attention, since you are more likely to have a stroke after having a TIA.
     
  8. What is a stroke? A stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain. Strokes are either ischemic or hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are caused by lack of oxygen in the brain, usually due to a blood clot. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. About 80% of strokes are ischemic.
     
  9. What medications are used to treat a stroke? If you have a stroke caused by a blood clot, you will likely receive a clot-busting medication called an antithrombotic, which will help dissolve the blood clot and prevent further damage to the brain. After your stroke, you may be prescribed medications to help prevent another stoke, such as an antiplatelet medication (e.g., clopidogrel) or an anticoagulant (e.g., warfarin).
     
  10. What is Lou Gehrig's disease? Lou Gehrig's disease is called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It is a progressive neuromuscular disease and is fatal. Unfortunately, there is no cure for ALS.

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