Stroke And Weight

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency affecting the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain. It is a cerebrovascular disease caused by shortage or cut-off of oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain. When the brain cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, they begin to deteriorate in function and eventually die when left untreated. When the brain cells die, certain functions may become impaired such as speech, walking, memory impairment, and so on. This can lead to permanent disability or even death. Early detection is necessary to reduce the damaging effect of the condition.  

Clinically, stroke is divided into two types:

Haemorrhagic stroke

Which contributes to about 20% of total stroke cases and Ischaemic stroke which makes up to 80% of stroke cases.1

Ischaemic stroke

Occurs when there is a narrowing or blockage of the arteries supplying blood to the brain. This results in the cut-off of blood supply to the brain, since the blood carries oxygen and nutrients, the cells get deprived of these essential nutrients and hence begin to die off. 

Haemorrhagic stroke

Occurs as a result of blood leakage in the brain which leads to an increase in brain pressure. The risk factors of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke are similar, though there are notable differences. Hypertension is a risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke, although it contributes to atherosclerotic disease that results in ischemic stroke.[1]

Obesity is a risk factor for strokes

There are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for strokes. Diet and comorbid conditions like Hypertension are the risk factors that can be altered to  reduce the risk, while age, sex, and race are non-modifiable risk factors.

The wrong diet can result in obesity and increase the chances of a stroke. When one is obese, there is a higher risk of Hyperlipidaemia. This might result in plaques blocking the blood vessels leading to Atherosclerosis. When this happens, the plaque blocks the blood supply to the important organs. The plaques may break out and flow with the blood where they might eventually get lodged somewhere cutting off total oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain. When this happens, the brain function stops and eventually results in stroke fatality.

Insulin resistance

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disorder that affects how the body breaks down and uses sugar. They are divided into two major types; Type 1 Diabetes, and Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 DM is associated with insulin insensitivity/resistance. This means that the body produces enough insulin, but it is not accessible to the cells. This can result from excess fat cells hindering the uptake and use of insulin in the body. When this happens, more fat tissues are built up. These fats can break out or build up in the arteries, thereby leading to the formation of plaques. This leads to the cutting off of oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain, hence the brain cells begin to die and eventually result in stroke which is marked by increased disability, impaired memory, distorted speech and gait.

Losing excess weight reduces the risk of a stroke!

It is important to always look at the modifiable risk factors of strokes and diet is one of them. Diets low in fat, rich in fibre with lean meats  should be encouraged. Increased exercise and other physical activities are  also important in the journey of burning excess fats and hence reducing body weight to increase insulin sensitivity. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Occasional use of clot busters like aspirin should be encouraged as they are cardioprotective. Lean meats should be taken.

When to contact a doctor

Strokes have some warning signs. When you begin to lose your righting reflex, have uncontrolled headaches , a persistent rise in blood pressure and a change in the shape of the face, you should quickly see or contact your doctor.


Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death globally and are a medical emergency that requires urgent attention to reduce its fatality.1 Strokes of both ischaemic and haemorrhagic origin have similar risk factors of which obesity, diabetes and hypertension play  vital roles in both. It is important to identify the risk factors and always be on guard  to prevent their  occurrence or even reduce its fatality. Lifestyle modification is very essential in reducing the risk of stroke. Try as much as possible to maintain adequate body weight since obesity plays a pivotal role in the risk of stroke. There is a need for regular medical checkups  to minimize the risk of this stroke.


  1. Boehme AK, Esenwa C, Elkind MSV. Stroke Risk Factors, Genetics, and Prevention. Circ Res. 2017 Feb 3;120(3):472–95.

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