All you want to know about ischemic stroke, lifestyle changes to prevent

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Actor Mithun Chakraborty was recently diagnosed with Ischemic Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke) after he was admitted to a Kolkata hospital post complaining of chest pain and weakness in the right upper and lower limbs. While the actor has been discharged from the hospital and given a clean chit on health, it’s important for stroke survivors to make appropriate lifestyle changes and focus on their recovery process. Around 15 million people around the world suffer from stroke. About Around 87% of all strokes are ischemic. They are caused by blockage of an artery. Haemorrhagic strokes are less common compared to ischemic and are caused by bleeding. About 13% of all strokes are haemorrhagic. (Also read | Mithun Chakraborty diagnosed with Ischemic Cerebrovascular Stroke, says hospital: ‘He is fully conscious, well-oriented’)

Actor Mithun Chakraborty was recently diagnosed with Ischemic Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke)(Freepik)

As Mithun got discharged from hospital, he advised everyone to control their diet to avoid stroke. “I eat like a demon. So I was punished. My advice for everyone is to control your diet. Those with diabetes should not assume that indulging in sweets won’t impact them. Manage your diet,” the actor said. Lifestyle changes like balanced diet, regular exercise, quitting to smoke, stress management, and having prescribed medications can prevent recurrent strokes but also help enhance overall quality of life.

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What is an ischemic stroke?

An ischemic stroke hits people when there is a blockage or obstruction in blood vessels supplying blood to the brain, causing shortage of blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

“This obstruction is led by a blood clot or plaque swelled up within blood vessels. People aged 55 or older, having personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack and other risk factors like high blood pressure, excessive smoking or more exposure to second-hand smoking, overuse of alcohol, drug abuse, high cholesterol, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea, cardiovascular disease (heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or irregular heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation) are more vulnerable to Ischemic cerebrovascular stroke,” says Dr Tarun Sharma, Director-Brain & Spine Surgery, Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad.

“In the intricate network of our circulatory system, blood clots often play the role of silent culprits, leading to a cascade of health issues. Among these, one of the most alarming consequences is ischemic cerebrovascular strokes, where restricted blood flow to the brain becomes a critical concern,” says Dr Sonia Lal Gupta, Senior Neurologist & Director-Metro Group of Hospitals.

Stroke has become more common among youngsters and lifestyle factors like sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy food choices and excessive stress in professional and family lives is putting people at the risk of stroke even in their 30s, says Dr Sharma.

“Certain individuals face a higher predisposition to ischemic strokes. Those who smoke, grapple with diabetes, struggle with high blood pressure, or have a family history of strokes find themselves in the higher-risk category. Understanding these risk factors is pivotal for implementing preventive measures and safeguarding one’s health,” says Dr Sonia.

Symptoms of ischemic stroke

“If a person experiences sudden weakness in arms, facial asymmetry, problem in speech, severe headache, confusion, vision issues like blurred vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes, loss of balance or coordination, he/she should be rushed to a nearest stroke hospital. These symptoms should not be overlooked. Delay in treatment may lead to permanent disabilities in patients,” says Dr Sharma.

“Recognising the subtle warnings that precede a stroke is crucial for timely intervention. Frequently disregarded, these signs include abrupt confusion, severe headaches without an apparent cause, dizziness, loss of balance, coordination issues, sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg – particularly on one side of the body. Additionally, confusion or difficulty understanding speech, slurred speech, and sudden vision impairment in one or both eyes are common symptoms that should not be taken lightly,” says Dr Sonia.

Stroke treatment

“Prompt treatment in the golden hour (3 hours after the onset of stroke) can play a vital role in lowering brain damage and improving outcomes. This is a medical emergency hence clot-busting medications are administered to the patient within a short window. Tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) or mechanical thrombectomy (a type of minimally invasive, image-guided procedure) is done to remove a clot from a patient’s artery. Moreover, patients are prescribed medicines to minimize the risk of future stroke and other leading risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiac conditions,” says Dr Sharma.

Lifestyle changes to prevent ischemic stroke

“To prevent ischemic stroke, you should make some lifestyle modifications such as quitting or limiting smoking, avoiding heavy alcohol use, maintaining healthy weight, controlling high blood pressure, high sugar levels by eating a well balanced diet, doing regular exercise like aerobic exercise which help brain and heart health. You should also incorporate green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits. You should also meditate or do yoga to reduce stress. Having sound sleep can also help boost brain and heart health,” says Dr Sharma.

“Taking charge of one’s health involves a multi-faceted approach to minimize the risk of ischemic strokes. This includes managing risk factors through prescribed medication, adopting a regimen of regular exercise, and embracing a healthy lifestyle. Smoking cessation, in particular, stands out as a crucial step in reducing stroke risk. By addressing these elements, individuals can actively contribute to their overall well-being and mitigate the potential impact of blood clots,” says Dr Sonia.

Post-stroke lifestyle modifications

According to Dr Vipul Gupta, Director of Neurointervention and Co-Chief of the Stroke Unit at Artemis Hospital, Gurugram, for those who have experienced a stroke, the journey towards recovery extends beyond medical intervention.

“Lifestyle modifications become imperative, encompassing a balanced diet, regular exercise, smoking cessation, stress management, and adherence to prescribed medications. These adjustments serve not only to prevent recurrent strokes but also to enhance the overall quality of life. In the aftermath of a stroke, enrolling in rehabilitation programmes becomes a pivotal aspect of the recovery process. These programmes aim to restore lost skills, offering individuals the opportunity to regain independence and functionality. Seeking guidance from a stroke expert is paramount, as individualised advice ensures tailored strategies for recovery,” says Dr Vipul.

Post-stroke, embracing lifestyle modifications and seeking expert guidance contribute significantly to the path of recovery.

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