A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain stops. The brain needs oxygen in the blood to function; without it, the brain cells start dying within minutes. This causes the parts of the body controlled by the dead portion of the brain to stop working. It is a life-threatening illness, and as such, it is vital to learn the causes and the risk factors to prevent one.

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Types of stroke

There are two major causes of a stroke. Something causes bleeding in the brain, or something blocks the blood supply to the brain. The different types of stroke include:

1. Ischemic

This type of stroke is the most common. In 8 out of every 10 strokes, something blocks the blood vessel carrying blood to the brain. The blockage can either happen when fat deposits in the arteries break off and travel to the brain or when an irregular heartbeat causes blood to flow poorly, forming a blood clot in the process.

2. Hemorrhagic

It occurs less frequently than an ischemic stroke but can be more severe. It happens when a blood vessel in the brain swells and bursts, or when a weakened blood vessel leaks. A hemorrhagic stroke can be caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure and too much use of blood thinner medication.

In addition to these, some people have a disease called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is a mini-stroke caused by a temporary blockage. TIA does not cause permanent brain damage, but it can increase your risk of developing a full-scale stroke.

Causes and risk factors

There are some causes of stroke that you can easily prevent or cure, while there are others that you cannot change. Either way, it is important to know what they are so that you can effectively manage the conditions that you can and prevent those from developing into life-threatening proportions. Some of those causes and risk factors include:

1. High blood pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is one of the most common causes of strokes. If you typically have a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher, you should discuss with your doctor on possible treatments to maintain optimum blood pressure.

2. Fitness

Being obese and overweight increases your chances of developing a stroke. Daily exercises can lower your risk. A simple 30-minute walk each day can make all the difference.

3. Tobacco

Chewing or smoking tobacco increases your risk of getting a stroke. Tobacco contains nicotine, a substance that can increase your blood pressure. Additionally, the smoke from cigarettes can cause fat to build up in the main neck artery. It also thickens the blood, causing it to clot easily. Even secondhand smoke can cause these effects.

4. Diabetes

Diabetic people are more likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure – two conditions that increase the risk of getting a stroke. Diabetes is also a risk factor because it damages your blood vessels. If you have a stroke while your blood sugar levels are high, the damage to the brain is worse.

5. Age

Although anyone can have a stroke, even babies, the odds increase the older you get and doubles every decade after age 55.

6. Family

Stroke tends to run in the genes and can hereditary. A family can share the tendency to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and other related conditions. Genetic disorders that block blood flow to the brain can also play a part.

7. Gender

Men are more likely to have a stroke than women of the same age. However, women have more strokes at an older age, making it harder to recover and more deadly.

8. Race

Strokes are more likely to affect Africans, African-Americans, and nonwhite Hispanics than any other demographic. Also, sickle cell disease, a condition that narrows arteries and blocks blood flow, is more prevalent in families that come from the Middle East, Asia, and the Mediterranean.

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