Anyone can suffer a stroke – a life-threatening medical emergency that starves the brain of oxygen and vital nutrients. A stroke usually occurs because of a blood clot in the brain but can also result from bleeding from a burst blood vessel.
According to the NHS, more than 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK every year. Over 30,000 stroke-related deaths occur in England alone each year. The number of strokes throughout the UK is also predicted to rise dramatically, owing to the ageing population. Today's article focuses on the common causes of a stroke. To learn more about this medical emergency, please read our in-depth guide.
Common causes include medical conditions such as:
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most common causes of a stroke. Because hypertension is typically symptom-free, doctors call it a 'silent disease'. According to the Stroke Association – the UK’s leading stroke charity – high blood pressure figures in about 50% of all strokes.
Hypertension puts all the blood vessels in your body under strain and at risk of blockage, including those going to your brain. High blood pressure can also result in a stroke if a blood vessel in the brain weakens and bleeds.
Diabetes occurs when your body produces insufficient insulin – a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in your bloodstream.
High levels of sugar can damage blood vessels, making them narrower and harder, and more likely to develop a blockage. If this happens to a blood vessel leading to your brain, it could cause a stroke.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the blood that’s essential for your body to function properly.
However, too much cholesterol can result in a build-up of fatty deposits in arteries. This can narrow and stiffen these blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to flow, and increasing the likelihood of a blood clot.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is caused by an abnormal heartbeat. It can result in a blood clot in your heart, which can travel via your bloodstream into your brain. If you have atrial fibrillation, you’re five times more likely to suffer a stroke.
The Risk Factors
The risk of having a stroke increases as you get older. This is because our arteries harden and get narrower over time. Many people who suffer a stroke are over 55, although younger people – including children – can be affected too.
Apart from ageing, other factors that can increase the risk include an unhealthy lifestyle, which can damage your blood vessels and raise your blood pressure, making a blood clot more likely. These risks include:
Your risk of stroke is also higher if you’ve previously had a stroke or heart attack.
Ethnicity can also play a part in making you more prone to a stroke. People of African, Caribbean or South Asian backgrounds are at greater risk of stroke than other UK residents because they’re more likely to have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Your family history may also make you more vulnerable, if a grandparent, parent or sibling has fallen victim to the condition. Certain problems during pregnancy – such as gestational diabetes – can also raise the risk.
Preventing a Stroke
After heart disease and cancer, strokes are the third main cause of death in the UK, and the main reason for disability. However, Blood Pressure UK – formerly the Blood Pressure Association – reports that nine out of 10 strokes may be preventable.
High blood pressure is the most common causes. Besides lowering blood pressure, Blood Pressure UK says the danger of having a stroke can be reduced by:
- Maintaining a healthy, low-salt diet.
- Getting more exercise.
- Avoiding smoking.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
Coping with the Aftermath
A stroke can result in temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the blood supply to your brain is cut off. Brain cells may be damaged or even killed, causing significant mental health and physical damage.
Complications afterwards can include:
- Partial paralysis.
- Difficulty talking or eating.
- Memory loss.
- Emotional problems including depression.
- Pain or strange sensations in the affected parts of your body.
- Impaired self-care ability.
More people are surviving than ever before. Some recover relatively quickly while others may need long-term support to help restore their independence.
UK Cases Predicted to Rise by Nearly a Half
In 2017, The Guardian reported on research by King’s College London that predicted the UK’s ageing population would result in 44% more stroke cases by 2035, while the number of stroke survivors is expected to rise by a third.
The newspaper commented that this raised questions about how our already-stretched social care services and NHS would cope.
Personal Alarm Information
Having a personal alarm in your home could be very useful if you suffer from a stroke, especially if you're alone. One push of a button sends an alarm call through to our 24/7 Response Team, who will be able to call the emergency services and your emergency contacts (family, friends and/or neighbours) on your behalf.
For further information on our personal alarm service, please speak to one of our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Remember to use the discount code BLOG2019 when you order one of our personal alarm systems on a Monthly or Annual Plan to receive £10 off.