Stroke Overview


A stroke can be a life-threatening condition that requires urgent medical attention and management. It happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and can cause the death of the brain cells. Therefore, it is very important for this to be treated as soon as possible, and every minute counts to reduce the damage caused. In this article, we will talk a little bit more about it, how to recognise it and how to prevent it.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a neurovascular condition caused by the interruption of blood supply to the brain. This leads to focal neurological symptoms depending on the affected area of the brain. The symptoms are persistent, can last more than 24 hours, and can lead to death.1

It is estimated that 25% of people above 25 years of age will have a stroke at some point in their life; however, the risk of stroke increases with age.2 Statistics say that over 110 million people worldwide have suffered a stroke.2

There are two types of stroke: ischaemic and haemorrhagic. An ischaemic stroke occurs when the blood supply is interrupted due to occlusion or narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the brain. A haemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding of blood vessels in the brain and is less common than an ischaemic stroke.3


The following symptoms can be experienced when one has a stroke: 

  • Trouble speaking and understanding – a person might present slurred speech and confusion.
  • Paralysis and numbness on one side of the body – a person might present facial asymmetry (one side of the face droops) and difficulty in mobilising one of the sides of the body.
  • Blurred vision – difficulty in seeing one or both eyes.
  • Headache – a severe headache of sudden onset that can not be explained.
  • Losing balance – might happen due to paralysis, but it depends on the affected area of the brain.4


Ischaemic strokes are caused by blood clots that block the brain vessels. These blood clots can come from the heart if the person has a condition called atrial fibrillation, in which the heart beats irregularly and can lead to the formation of clots. However, most blood clots come from fatty plaques on the arteries that grow in a process called atherosclerosis which results in the narrowing of arteries. This then reduces the blood supply to the brain. 

The main cause of haemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure which can make the arteries weak and more susceptible to ruptures.3

Risk factors

Risk factors of stroke are the ones that can increase one’s chances of developing an ischaemic or haemorrhagic stroke. These include:

  • High blood pressure – is the main cause of the haemorrhagic stroke but also can speed up the process of narrowing the arteries.
  • Smoking – contributes to the damage to the arteries and their narrowing.
  • High cholesterol – contributes to the process of building fatty deposits in the arteries.
  • Diabetes – is also related to damage to the vessels.
  • Sleep apnoea – a condition that is related to obesity and also high blood pressure.
  • Family history – people with a close relative who had a stroke have a higher chance of having a stroke.
  • Cardiovascular disease – arteries are more damaged and there is a high risk of cardiac conditions like atrial fibrillation.
  • Age – people over the age of 55 have a higher chance of having a stroke than younger people.
  • Obesity – related to the damage of the vessels and fat deposition in the arteries.
  • Alcohol consumption – high levels of alcohol consumption increase the risk of high blood pressure and, therefore, stroke.
  • Sex – men are more likely to have a stroke than women.
  • Ethnicity – African Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk of stroke.3,4

You can reduce your risk of a stroke by making a few changes to your lifestyle

The following lifestyle factors have the greatest impact on your risk of a stroke. We will also look at what you can do to reduce your risk. 


Healthy eating can help reduce the risk of stroke. By avoiding fatty foods and excess sugar, one can reduce the risk of the formation of fatty deposits in arteries that cause the narrowing of arteries and can lead to stroke. It is therefore advised to follow a low-fat diet full of fibre, fruits and vegetables to decrease your chances of being overweight and developing atherosclerosis. This reduces the risk of suffering from a stroke.4

Physical activity

Exercising helps to keep your cardiovascular system in good condition. It also helps to control high blood pressure, diabetes, and stress levels and can help in maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the risk of suffering from strokes.4

Minimising the risk of obesity

Obesity can increase the chances of having a stroke by increasing the chances of developing diseases like diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidaemia (high cholesterol levels) and high blood pressure. These conditions damage the vessels and also increase the risk of atherosclerosis.4 It is therefore important to minimise the risk of obesity through regular exercise, a healthy diet and weight management.4

Reducing alcohol consumption 

Alcohol can increase the risk of stroke by increasing the chance of developing obesity (since alcoholic drinks have a lot of calories). Alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure and cardiac issues (cardiomyopathy and atrial fibrillation). Therefore, it is encouraged to reduce alcohol consumption.4


Your body needs water to function properly and remain hydrated. Long term, dehydration can result in the thickening of the blood and cause increased blood pressure as the heart needs to increase pressure to pump the thick blood in the body. This increases the risk of strokes. Remaining hydrated reduces the risk of high blood pressure and the thickening of the blood, leading to a reduced risk of stroke.5


Irregular sleep patterns, with a reduced amount of night sleep, can cause hypertension and are also related to obesity in the long term. Both conditions increase the risk of stroke. Therefore, it is important to get enough sleep and rest.4

Mental health

Recurring high levels of stress can contribute to increased blood pressure. It is very important to reduce the mental anxiety caused by daily problems, taking time to relax and recover from stress.4


Keeping your emotional health balanced is necessary for your physical health. Self-care is important for overall good health. It is crucial to prioritise your mental health and try to reduce your stress levels. Prioritise your well-being by doing things for pleasure.


A stroke is a severe medical condition that can be life-threatening. It is caused by the interruption of blood supply to the brain due to some occlusion or vessel rupture. Common risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diabetes, family history and high alcohol consumption. However, lifestyle changes like healthy eating, regular exercise, staying hydrated and sleeping adequately can help reduce the risk of stroke. 


  1. CDC. About Stroke | [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [citado 13 de setembro de 2022]. Disponível em:
  2. Learn about stroke [Internet]. World Stroke Organization. [citado 13 de setembro de 2022]. Disponível em:
  3. Stroke - causes [Internet]. 2017 [citado 13 de setembro de 2022]. Disponível em:
  4. Stroke - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [citado 13 de setembro de 2022]. Disponível em:
  5. Dehydration and stroke risk – neurology consultants of arizona [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 30]. Available from: 

Renata Barbosa Rebuitti

Bachelor's Degree in Medicine,Federal University of Minas Gerais

Renata is a medical doctor passionate about her work and science. Currently exploring medical writing and medical communications. She loves to share information and scientific knowledge. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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