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What Causes a Stroke? Understanding the Leading Factors

what causes a stroke

5 leading causes of stroke with methods for treatment and prevention

Do you know what causes a stroke?

And do you know the risk factors that increase your chances of stroke?

This article will explain it all. By the end, you will know how to identify a stroke so that you can save a life!

What Causes a Stroke?

In order to learn what causes a stroke, you must understand what a stroke is:

  • A stroke is caused by an artery in the brain either rupturing or clogging, depriving the brain of oxygen-rich blood. 
  • When an artery in the brain is clogged by a blood clot, it’s called an ischemic stroke.
  • A ruptured artery in the brain is known as hemorrhagic stroke or brain aneurysm.

what causes a stroke

In order to treat stroke, blood flow must be restored in the brain.

Common treatments include clot-busing drugs for ischemic stroke and brain surgery for hemorrhagic stroke.

Symptoms of a Stroke

symptoms of what causes a stroke

When a stroke occurs, it often leads to these stroke symptoms:

  • Facial drooping in half of the face
  • Weakness in one arm and/or leg
  • Slurred speech

Other less common symptoms include splitting headache, vertigo, dizziness, and sudden vision problems.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to call 9-1-1 immediately! Time lost is brain lost.

Knowing the symptoms of stroke can help you save a life so that you can call 9-1-1 if you witness someone suffering a stroke.

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Bonus: Download a free 20-page Stroke Rehab Exercise ebook

You’ll get a 20-page PDF with our BEST tips for stroke survivors and caregivers. Click here to download the PDF (link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading)

Leading Causes of Stroke

Before stroke occurs, there are often preexisting medical conditions that increased the risk of stroke.

It’s important to understand your stroke risk factors so that you can work to prevent stroke.

To help with stroke prevention, you will learn about the 5 leading causes of stroke below.

If you have any of these stroke risk factors, now is the time to have a conversation with your doctor.

1. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

hypertension is leading cause of stroke

Hypertension is a leading cause of stroke because of the strain it puts on your arteries.

When you have hypertension, your blood pressure is high, which puts extra strain on your arterial walls.

This high blood pressure increases the risk of rupture; and when an artery in the brain ruptures, it leads to a hemorrhagic stroke.

Hypertension was the leading cause of death in the US in 2014, and it causes 410,000 American deaths annually. (Source: CDC)

2. High Cholesterol

high cholesterol is a top reasons for stroke

It’s true that high cholesterol can cause a stroke – with some caveats.

High cholesterol promotes plaque buildup in your arteries, narrows the passageway for your blood.

This plaque buildup can eventually cause a blood clot to get lodged and stuck, cutting off the supply of blood.

When the supply of blood in an artery in the brain becomes clogged by a blood clot, it’s called an ischemic stroke:

While high cholesterol does not directly cause stroke, it’s a high contributing factor.

Strangely, high cholesterol can actually reduce the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, according to some studies.

This ambiguity is why talking to your doctor is essential.

3. Diabetes

diabetes causes of stroke

Diabetes is a metabolism disorder that prevents you from producing the right amount of insulin, a hormone that allows your body to utilize glucose, its main source of fuel.

As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood stream rises and leads to fatty deposits building up inside your arteries.

This leads to damaged nerves and blood vessels which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Those with diabetes are twice as likely as someone who does not have diabetes to have heart disease or stroke.

So diabetes can be one of the reasons for stroke if you don’t manage it properly.

Proper management of diabetes includes medication, dietary modifications, and exercise.

4. Central Obesity

obesity causes of stroke

Obesity-related health conditions include stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes – which are some of the leading causes of preventable death. (Source: CDC)

Obesity involves having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 30, and central obesity means having that excess fat around the waist specifically.

Central obesity increases production of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” type of cholesterol which most contributes to ischemic stroke.

Therefore, losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI can dramatically reduce your risk of stroke.

5. Smoking

smoking the leading causes of stroke

Smoking increases blood clot formation, thickens blood, and increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Each of these factors is a stroke risk within itself, so it’s no surprise that smoking doubles your risk of stroke. (Source: Stroke.org PDF)

By quitting smoking, you can help your blood flow freely throughout your body, which is key to preventing stroke and living a healthy life.

Prevention Methods for the Leading Causes of Stroke

All of these causes of stroke are manageable.

If you find yourself with a condition on this list, talk to your doctor today. They may suggest these tips for stroke prevention:

  • Reduce dietary sodium to manage hypertension
  • Reduce dietary cholesterol to manage high cholesterol
  • Exercise more and monitor dietary choices to manage diabetes
  • Manage obesity by losing weight with a healthy diet and exercise
  • Quit smoking

You should also talk to your doctor about medication that can help the hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Since diet impacts the leading causes of stroke, people at higher risk of stroke should focus on eating a healthier diet.

By eating foods that help prevent stroke and getting adequate exercise, you’ll be on the road to better health.

And there you have it! Those are the top causes of stroke and best methods for prevention.

Keep It Going: Download Our Stroke Recovery Ebook for Free

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Get our free stroke recovery ebook by signing up below! It contains 15 tips every stroke survivor and caregiver must know.

You’ll also receive our weekly Monday newsletter that contains 5 articles on stroke recovery.

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Get Inspired with This Stroke Survivor Story

5 stars

Mom gets better every day!

When my 84-year-old Mom had a stoke on May 2, the right side of her body was rendered useless. In the past six months, she has been blessed with a supportive medical team, therapy team, and family team that has worked together to gain remarkable results.

While she still struggles with her right side, she can walk (with assistance) and is beginning to get her right arm and hand more functional. We invested in the FitMi + MusicGlove + Tablet bundle for her at the beginning of August.

She lights up when we bring it out and enjoys using it for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time. While she still doesn’t have enough strength to perform some of the exercises, she rocks the ones she can do!

Thanks for creating such powerful tools to help those of us caring for stroke patients. What you do really matters!

David M. Holt’s review of FitMi home therapy, 11/09/2020

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