What Are the Causes of Human Strokes?

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Strokes occur in two different forms: an ischemic stroke is caused by too little blood in the brain, and a hemorrhagic stroke is a result of excess blood in the skull. There are two kinds of ischemic strokes and two kinds of hemorrhagic strokes, all resulting from different factors. Additionally, a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a “ministroke”, can also ultimately cause a stroke. Addressing risk factors can help reduce your chances of suffering a stroke.

Thrombotic Stroke

This type of ischemic stroke is a result of a blood clot (thrombus) forming in one of the arteries that carry blood to the brain. The clot usually occurs in parts of the artery damaged by atherosclerosis, a disease that fills the arteries with fatty deposits or plaque. It typically manifests in the carotid arteries, which are located on either side of the neck but can occur in other arteries in the neck or brain.

Embolic Stroke

This second type of ischemic stroke happens when a clot forms in a blood vessel not serving the brain. Typically, it appears in the heart, gets carried through the blood, and becomes stuck in the brain arteries, which are narrower. Atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat, is usually responsible for an embolus clot by causing poor blood flow.

Intracerebral Hemorrhage

This hemorrhagic stroke is most commonly caused by high blood pressure, which causes arteries in the brain to become brittle, making them susceptible to cracking and rupturing. Blood vessels burst in the brain and damage surrounding brain tissue.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

A subarachnoid hemorrhage is usually the result of an aneurysm that ruptures. The rupture causes bleeding in a large artery on the surface of the brain that moves into the spaces between your brain and skull. After the hemorrhage, the blood vessels in the brain might spasm and limit blood flow to certain parts of the brain.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A TIA, also known as a ministroke, is caused by temporarily decreased blood flow to the brain. It is similar to an ischemic stroke in that it is caused by an interruption in normal blood flow, but it does not last as long and will not cause permanent damage to the brain.

Reducing Risk

Control high blood pressure and keep arteries clearer by lowering your cholesterol and saturated fat intake. Regular exercise can lower your blood pressure, increase the amount of good cholesterol in your body, and maintain heart and blood vessel health. Managing stress is vital to control blood pressure; stress also makes blood more likely to clot.

Quit smoking and avoid illicit drugs. Limit your alcohol consumption; drinking too much increases blood pressure, but moderate amounts can increase good cholesterol and reduce the blood’s tendency to clot.

A heart-healthy diet is important and you should increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole soy foods like tofu and soy milk, and omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish.

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