Strokes affect almost 800,000 individuals each year in the U.S. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute defines a stroke as occurring when the flow of blood to the brain is blocked or sudden bleeding occurs in the brain.
October 29th is World Stroke Day, a good time to focus on spreading awareness and providing information to help us all be better informed.
The Mayo Clinic identifies three different types of strokes:
- Ischemic: Accounting for about 90% of strokes, an ischemic stroke occurs when the blood flow is blocked to the brain. This prevents oxygen and other nutrients from reaching brain tissues. The result is that brain cells begin to die within minutes.
- Hemorrhagic: When a leakage or bursting of a blood vessel in the brain occurs, it results in a hemorrhagic stroke. The risk of this kind of stroke increases when high blood pressure is left uncontrolled or as a result of over doses of blood thinners.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Often referred to as a “mini stroke” there is often little to no brain damage. A TIA is caused by a temporary decrease in blood supply to the brain, often lasting five minutes or less.
Regardless of the type of stroke, all are considered medical emergencies. Even a TIA can reveal partially narrowed or blocked arteries that feed the brain. Ultimately, a stroke can cause serious brain damage which, in turn, can result in disability or even death.
What is the link between a stroke and dementia?
While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, vascular dementia is second, occurring when a decrease of blood flow to the brain damages tissues. And, yes, there is a link between a stroke and vascular dementia. Individuals who suffer a stroke have a greater likelihood of developing vascular dementia, according to research cited by Healthline.
Research cited by The American Stroke Association describes three factors that can increase risk of vascular dementia, along with heart disease and stroke:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
The good news is that it is possible to reduce your risk of a stroke.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has a list of recommendations which include:
- Control medical conditions. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol it is important to stay up to date with medications prescribed by your doctor.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Balancing food intake with regular exercise can help.
- Develop healthy eating habits. Consider the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH diet, both of which provide a healthy balance of food groups. Always check with your doctor before beginning any special diet regimen.
- Quit smoking. Smoking has been linked to several life-threatening diseases. There are many resources available to help individuals break the smoking habit.
The link between strokes and vascular dementia is one of many reasons to keep up to date with your doctor visits and take actions within your power to care for your health, avoiding bad habits that may increase your risk of a stroke.
Here are a few additional resources to learn more about strokes and vascular dementia: