What Causes a Massive Stroke?

Numerous causes for strokes, or "brain attacks," exist.
Numerous causes for strokes, or "brain attacks," exist. (Image: blue brain image by John Sfondilias from Fotolia.com)

According to the American Heart Association, when a blood vessel to the brain bursts or becomes blocked, a stroke occurs. These disruptions of the blood supply to the brain, depriving it of oxygen and vital nutrients, kill brain cells. Several possible causes exist for strokes. Understanding these causes may help people in danger of having a stroke to make lifestyle changes that will help them avoid becoming a victim.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often referred to as “a silent killer.” Most people do not experience symptoms indicating they have the disease until it reaches dangerous levels. At that point, symptoms may include dizziness, headaches and blurred vision.

Blood pressure measurements consist of two numbers. The top number, systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure the artery walls experience during a heartbeat. The lower number, or diastolic pressure, measures the pressure on the artery walls between heartbeats. According to WrongDiagnosis.com, adults should have a goal of keeping blood pressure readings between 140/90 and 120/80.

Exercising, limiting consumption of sodium and alcohol and having a sensible diet help people avoid or lower high blood pressure. When these efforts fail, a doctor may prescribe blood pressure lowering medication.

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol, a waxy fat found in the body, works to form cell membranes, hormones and some vitamins. Many foods also contain cholesterol. The body holds two types of cholesterol. LDL cholesterol causes plaque buildup in the arteries, raising stroke risk. The other kind of cholesterol, HDL carries plaque out of the arteries and helps reduce high cholesterol, reducing stroke risk.

The American Heart Association recommends keeping a cholesterol level of 200 milligrams per deciliter, also referred to as mg/dl. Consuming less fat, saturated fat in particular, may benefit people struggling with high cholesterol.
Should exercise and a sensible diet fail in controlling high cholesterol, your doctor may choose to offer a prescription of cholesterol-lowering drugs.


The North Carolina Stroke Association reports that smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke. However, a person who quits smoking will find that after a few years, he will have the same risk factors as a non-smoker.

Smoking elevates the risk of having a stroke for several reasons. For instance, smoking raises blood pressure. It also raises the risk of having a blood clot, which causes strokes. Additionally, smoking lowers levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. It also increases fat buildup in the blood vessels, which could block blood from getting to the brain and cause a stroke.


People with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher have a higher risk of stroke than those with healthy BMIs. Obesity creates numerous health issues that raise stroke risk, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Additionally, the extra pounds add strain on the heart and blood vessels, elevating stroke risks.

Any weight loss assists in lowering stroke dangers. For example, many people find that losing even 10 pounds lowers blood pressure.

Hormone Pills

Women put themselves at higher risk for strokes by using hormone medications. For example, oral contraceptives containing high levels of estrogen increase the risk of experiencing blood clots. This risk goes up in women over the age of 30. Post-menopausal estrogen replacement therapy also has links to an increased risk of stroke. Even so called "natural," non-prescription menopause pills may contain estrogen and raise stroke risk.

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