August 1, 2014
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

Stroke Risk Reduction

Stroke Risk Reduction Health Home >> Stroke Risk Reduction 

Why is stroke risk reduction so important for me?

Learn more about strokes, stroke causes, why people with high cholesterol are more at risk, and why it's so important to reduce your risk.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain. Without the oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood, brain cells begin to die. The longer blood flow is interrupted, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage and death.

There are two common types of stroke:

Type of stroke What happens
Ischemic stroke (80% of strokes)

A blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Ischemic strokes may be:

  • thrombotic: A blood clot forms in a blood vessel in the brain and blocks it.
  • embolic: A blood clot forms in another part of the body (such as the heart), moves into the brain, and blocks a blood vessel.
Hemorrhagic stroke (20% of strokes) Blood vessels rupture in the brain, causing blood to leak out. The leaking blood and the interruption of normal blood flow damage the brain.

Depending on the part of the brain affected, strokes can affect your vision, mobility, thoughts, memory, and speech. See "How could a stroke affect my health and lifestyle?" to learn more.

Some people may have a "mini-stroke," also called a TIA (transient ischemic attack). With a TIA, the blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked. A TIA causes the same symptoms as a stroke, but the symptoms usually disappear within 24 hours. However, a TIA is still very serious because it could still cause brain damage, and because it is a warning that you are at risk of a stroke.

What is high cholesterol?

High cholesterol is the term most people use instead of the medical term dyslipidemia. Dyslipidemia can be defined, as it is in Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, as "a condition marked by abnormal concentrations of lipids or lipoproteins in the blood." In other words, the levels of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy. About 40% of Canadians have high cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a type of fat that the body uses to build cells and hormones.

The 2 main types of cholesterol are:

  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Also called "bad cholesterol," LDL builds up in the blood vessel walls, damaging and narrowing them.
  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL): Also called "good cholesterol," HDL helps clear LDL away from the blood vessel walls.

People with high cholesterol have too much "bad cholesterol" and not enough "good cholesterol." High cholesterol can increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack - learn how.

High cholesterol is usually a "silent disease" that does not cause any symptoms. But it can be detected with a simple blood test. Your doctor may recommend that you go for a cholesterol test if you are a man 40 or over or a woman 50 or over, or if you have certain health conditions.

Find out how to manage your cholesterol to reduce your risk of stroke.

How does high cholesterol increase my stroke risk?

High cholesterol causes fatty plaques to build up in the blood vessels. The fatty plaques may narrow the blood vessels and cut off blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke. The plaques may also break off, increasing the risk of blood clots that could block blood vessels in the brain, causing a stroke.

High cholesterol can greatly increase your chances of having a stroke. But you can take action to reduce this risk! Get your cholesterol under control and you could reduce your stroke risk dramatically.

Learn more about other stroke risk factors, and find out what you can do to reduce your risk.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

Stroke warning signs

Learn to recognize the warning signs of stroke. If you see them, respond immediately by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. It can significantly improve survival and recovery.

Weakness - Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.
Trouble speaking - Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary.
Vision problems -Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.
Headache - Sudden severe and unusual headache.
Dizziness - Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.

© Reproduced with the permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2011.

Print the stroke warning signs and put them on your fridge or in your wallet.

This list includes common stroke warning signs but is not a complete list of all possible warning signs. Some people may have additional warning signs not listed above.

How could a stroke affect my health and lifestyle?

The effects of a stroke vary from person to person: some people die, others recover completely, but many have effects that could last a lifetime.

Here's what could happen to you after a stroke:

Death 15%
Very severe disability (you will need long-term care) 10%
Moderate-to-severe disability (you can function on your own but with difficulty) 40%
Mild disability (your disability is inconvenient but does not have a major impact on your life) 25%
Complete recovery 10%

A stroke can affect many different parts of your life, depending on the areas of the brain that were damaged:

Type of problem What could happen? How could this affect my life?
Physical problems

You could have weakness or paralysis along one side of your body, painful muscle spasms, vision changes (double vision or "blind spots"), difficulty swallowing, constant pain, poor balance, or a loss of fine motor skills (the ability to make small, precise movements).

It might be harder for you to get around and do your usual activities.
Mental challenges

You could have trouble speaking, understanding speech, remembering recent events, or learning and remembering new information.

You could also have personality changes, poor judgment, and impulsive behaviour.
It could be harder for you to do your job and function day to day.
Emotional changes

You may also feel frustrated, angry, depressed, or emotionally out of control.

This could put a strain on your relationships.

Some of these problems may improve over time. Stroke rehabilitation can help people regain some of the function they have lost and live life to the fullest.

Displaying 1 of 4 Articles
Ad

The contents of this site are for informational purposes only and are meant to be discussed with your physician or other qualified health care professional before being acted on. Never disregard any advice given to you by your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Always seek the advice of a physician or other licensed health care professional regarding any questions you have about your medical condition(s) and treatment(s). This site is not a substitute for medical advice.

© 1996 - 2014 MediResource Inc. - MediResource reaches millions of Canadians each year.