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Understanding Stroke and its Causes

Stroke is a sudden episode that occurs when arteries leading to and within the brain are affected (either blocked by clots or rupture). It is sometimes termed a cardiovascular accident or brain attack. It is much like a heart attack, which only occurs in the brain. When it happens, the part of the affected brain cannot get enough oxygen it needs and if the cells are deprived of oxygen for more than 4 minutes, they die leading to permanent brain damage. As well as a heart attack, stroke is a medical emergency and fast treatment is essential for the positive disease outcome. Treatment options usually include medications, surgery and rehabilitation.
There exist two types of stroke: ischemic, which makes 80% of all strokes and hemorrhagic. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot in the brain vessels prevents blood flow to cells. Clots typically form in areas where arteries in the brain or neck have been severely narrowed or blocked by plaques. This is called stenosis, which usually results from atherosclerosis.  Other causes of ischemic stroke include embolism and thrombosis.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened brain vessel ruptures. Bleeding into and around the brain damages the surrounding brain tissue. The main cause of such stroke is hypertension, which weakens the arteries in the brain and makes them prone to rupture.  It can also result from badly-formed vessels in the brain, brain aneurysm, brain trauma, tumor or cancer.
As you see, the causes for each type of stroke are different, though the things that can provoke a cardiovascular accident are almost the same - hypertension, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high cholesterol levels, obesity, lack of physical activity, diabetes and arterial fibrillation. These risk factors can be controlled by medications and lifestyles changes.

Though there are some uncontrollable risk factors that can’t be changed, such as age, family history, gender and ethnicity.

If you are concerned about the risk of stroke, talk to your doctor to learn your personal risk factors and work out a treatment plan if necessary.

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