A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident, occurs when there is an interruption in the blood flow to the brain. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die due to lack of oxygen causing lasting damage. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a clot. This blockage can occur in two ways: a clot may form in an artery that is already very narrow, or a clot may break off from another place in the body and travel up to the brain. The risk of stroke is higher in those who have heart disease, poor circulation, unhealthy lifestyles that include habits such as smoking, high fat diet, and lack of exercise. Adopting habits that promote cardiovascular health and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) may help to reduce your risk of stroke. Essentials of a healthy lifestyle include a balanced diet, controlling weight, monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, limiting alcohol and not smoking.
Other tips to help prevent stroke include: getting appropriate medical treatment of atrial fibrillation, sleep apnea and/or diabetes. If your risk of stroke is high because of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure or a history of heart disease or previous strokes, you should see your doctor regularly to ensure these risk factors are being managed appropriately.