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Updated August 21, 2005

What is "Stroke"?

Stroke, also known as a CVA (Cerebral Vascular Accident) is the brain damage that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted for some reason. Stroke can be caused by blockage of the arteries to the brain, by blood clots or narrowing of the arteries. This is the most common cause of stroke accounting for 80% of strokes. Bleeding into the brain tissue causes the other 20% of strokes. Whatever the cause, brain cells die during stroke because of the loss of blood and oxygen to the brain cells.


  1. Control Blood Pressure
    Uncontrolled blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke. Blood pressure can be controlled by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing the amount of salt and fatty foods you consume and by reducing weight with exercise. If those measures don't work then you may need medication to help lower blood pressure. These medications do not work if not taken, so it is important to take as your doctor prescribes.
  2. Quit Smoking
    Smoking promotes a buildup of fatty deposits in the carotid arteries and also causes the arteries to narrow. Together this can cause obstruction of the blood flow to the brain. Talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program. Nicotine patches and gum have proven effective as has Zyban, an antidepressant. Some people also report that acupuncture and hypnosis are helpful, though this is unproven.
  3. Treat Heart Disease
    Many forms of heart disease can cause the formation of blood clots, of which pieces can break off and travel to the brain and lodge in small blood vessels causing obstruction. Your doctor or heart specialist can prescribe medications, which thin the blood and prevent the formation of clots. Surgical procedures, which open up heart blood vessels, can also help to prevent strokes by "cleaning out" the existing buildup in the arteries.
  4. Control Diabetes
    One of the many complications of uncontrolled diabetes is narrowing of the arteries and buildup of fatty deposits. These are the same problems that can lead to stroke. It has also been found that if blood sugars are excessively high when a stroke hits the amount of brain damage is increased. Exercise, proper diet and checking blood sugar daily are imperative.

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