The word stroke often sends chills up the spines of many people, especially those who are getting older.  While nearly 800,000 Americans have a stroke every year, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable.  What is a stroke exactly?  A little knowledge can dispel some of the myths associated with stroke and help reduce risks for experiencing one.

What is a stroke, and where does it occur in the body? 

A stroke occurs in the brain and is usually caused by obstructed blood flow to a specific area. When blood flow is blocked, brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen.  Some people experience total recovery from stroke, but over 65 percent of individuals who live through one end up with some form of disability.  Depending on the particular area of the brain and how much is affected, a stroke can result in minor temporary symptoms or more serious long-term disabilities like lost memory or impaired speech or muscle control.

What are the main types of stroke?

The majority of strokes result from a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel to the brain.  These are called ischemic strokes.  A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel bursts or becomes weakened and leaks.  This results in bleeding into brain tissue and is the deadliest form of stroke.

Are there risk factors that contribute to stroke?

Risk factors for stroke include age, race, gender, and family history.  Strokes are more common in people 65 years of age and older, but chances for experiencing a stroke double every 10 years after the age of 55.  African-Americans are at greater risk for stroke than Caucasians due to higher rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.  Women have greater risks for stroke than men because they live longer on average, and individuals with a family history of stroke experience increased risks.

Related:  Is There a Connection Between Diet Soda and Stroke Risk?

Are there strategies to help prevent stroke?

People can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help prevent stroke, including the following:

  • Do not smoke; if you do, stop
  • Eat a diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Limit the amount of sodium consumed to 1,500 mg per day
  • Maintain a healthy bodyweight
  • Engage in daily physical activity
  • Become conscious of feelings of anger or negativity, and make an effort to release them
  • Try stress-relieving methods like meditation, yoga, or listening to soft music
  • Limit alcohol consumption to two daily drinks for men and one daily drink for women

The idea of a stroke can be scary, especially to aging individuals and their loved ones.  Fortunately, learning about different types of stroke, risk factors and healthy lifestyle strategies can help.  People with concerns about stroke should consult with a health care professional.