In the past decade or so, stroke has been on the rise in Singapore. Stroke episodes in Singapore rose from 5,670 episodes in 2009, to 8,326 episodes in 2018. This sheer increase in numbers can largely be attributed to the rise of Singapore’s aging population. Age, is after all, one of the single most important risk factors for stroke. As caregivers, especially those of us who are providing for seniors, it is of paramount importance that we stay vigilant for stroke.
What Is a Stroke?
Stroke happens when blood supply to our brain is interrupted or cut off. Without the necessary oxygen and nutrients required for survival, brain cell death occurs within minutes, impacting our brain function.
Stroke can be classified into three main types: Ischemic Stroke, Hemorrhagic Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).
This happens when your blood vessel is blocked, restricting blood flow to your brain. Blood vessel blockages are often a result of either embolism or thrombosis. Embolism refers to when a blood clot travels through our bloodstream and becomes stuck in the blood vessels of our brain. Thrombosis refers to the narrowing of blood vessels due to fatty deposits, leading to a blockage.
This happens when your blood vessel leaks or ruptures, causing bleeding in the brain. Blood vessel rupture is often due to mismanagement of high blood pressure, trauma, overuse of blood thinners, and medical conditions like weakened blood vessel walls, protein deposits along blood vessel walls, or even ischemic strokes that eventually lead to blood vessel rupture.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Or a ministroke, happens when symptoms of a full-blown stroke are experienced temporarily, lasting even as short as 5 minutes. TIA is similar to ischemic stroke, with blood flow to the brain being restricted. Even though TIA typically does not leave any long-term impact, it is a possible indicator of a partially blocked or narrowed artery and increases the risk for stroke later in life.
A good way to remember and identify stroke symptoms you should watch out for can be summarised as the BE FAST Framework:
During a stroke, it is common to experience dizziness, stumble, and lose motor coordination.
Stroke can also cause blackened or blurred vision, visual difficulty, or seeing double.
Facial numbness can also occur during a stroke, often only on one side, leading to the classic sign of facial drooping.
A person having a stroke could experience weakness or numbness in one arm, resulting in difficulty raising the arm, or a tendency for it to drift downwards.
Confusion, difficulty speaking and understanding speech, and slurring are also commonly experienced during a stroke.
When it comes to treating a stroke, time is of the essence. Brain cell death happens with every passing minute. You must call 995 immediately if you observe any of the above symptoms.
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Stroke Causes and Risk Factors
There are many causes and risk factors for stroke. These include factors out of our control like our age and family history, and other lifestyle factors within our control. Some of the most prominent cause and risk factors you should look out for are:
Our arteries narrow over time naturally, therefore the risk of stroke increases with age.
Sometimes, stroke can be caused by genetic disorders or conditions that cause blood vessel blockages in the brain. If your close relatives have had a stroke, you may be at higher risk of a stroke as well.
A high Body Mass Index (BMI) is associated with other health conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes which increase the risk of stroke.
Cigarette smoke can cause fatty deposits to build up in our main neck artery and thickens the blood, raising the risk of embolism and thrombosis. The nicotine in cigarettes also directly increases blood pressure, heightening the risk of stroke.
High Blood Pressure
Poor management of high blood pressure places strain on our heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of embolism and the narrowing of blood vessels.
Having too much cholesterol in our blood can lead to thrombosis, raising the risk of an ischemic stroke.
Excessive blood sugar levels can contribute to embolism and thrombosis as well, increasing the risk of stroke.
Any of these factors or even a combination of these factors can significantly raise your risk of having a stroke. But that’s not to say that there is nothing we can do about it.
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How to Prevent a Stroke
The easiest way to mitigate stroke is to avoid having it in the first place. Here at Homage, we’ve curated a guide with simple steps for stroke prevention you can take in your daily life. As high blood pressure and high cholesterol are direct causal and risk factors for stroke, many of these steps are targeted towards promoting a healthy lifestyle that helps you manage these conditions and lead a stroke-free life.
1. Lose Weight if You Need To
As mentioned, a high BMI is strongly associated with elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels. To reduce your risk of stroke, you should embark on a weight loss program if your BMI falls within the overweight or obese range of 25 and above. Aim to keep your BMI below 25 to reduce your risk of stroke.
2. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise can help with your weight loss journey. It also strengthens and conditions your heart to pump blood more efficiently over time, reducing the strain placed on your arteries, thus lowering your risk of stroke.
3. Quit Smoking
As mentioned, smoking directly increases the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you smoke, quitting smoking is one of the simplest and most immediate ways of reducing your risk of stroke.
4. Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption increases blood pressure. Thus, reducing your intake of alcohol will help you to lower your blood pressure and risk of stroke.
5. Get Regular Checkups
You should get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly to keep tabs on your cardiovascular health. Proper management of high blood pressure and high cholesterol is essential to reducing your risk of stroke.
Diet and Medication
6. Eat Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Studies have shown that fruit and vegetable consumption are associated with a lower risk of stroke. So, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and enjoy the sweetness of having a lower risk of stroke.
7. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is also beneficial to lowering your blood pressure and improving your cardiovascular health in general. Incorporate foods like barley, legumes, and whole grains in your diet regularly to reap the benefits.
8. Reduce Consumption of Fatty Foods
Eating less food rich in cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats will help you reduce the risk of having fatty deposits buildup in your artery walls, reducing your risk of stroke.
9. Reduce Consumption of Salt
Excessive consumption of salt can cause fluid retention, leading to a rise in blood pressure. You should limit your salt consumption to between 1500mg and 2300mg, or a little over half a teaspoon of table salt each day. Pay attention to food labels and choose low-sodium alternatives to processed food when possible as they tend to contain a lot of sodium.
10. Take Antiplatelet Drugs
Antiplatelet drugs like Clopidogrel, Aspirin or Dipyridamole prevents blood cells called platelets from sticking together to form a clot, making your blood “less sticky,” and reducing your risk of stroke.
11. Take Anticoagulant Drugs
Anticoagulant drugs like Warfarin, Rivaroxaban, Dabigatran or Apixaban are blood thinners that prevent new blood clots from forming and existing blood clots from growing bigger. They work by disrupting blood clotting processes in your body. They thus lower your risk of embolisms and stroke.
12. Take Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
Cholesterol-lowering drugs like statin, Simvastatin, Atorvastatin or Rosuvastatin help reduce the chances of fatty deposit buildup along your artery walls, or thrombosis and thus helps reduce your risk of stroke.
Now that you are armed with these tips and strategies for stroke prevention, you are in a better informed place to start safeguarding yourself and your loved ones from stroke. You can start practicing these steps in your daily life to begin living a stroke-free life. Do remember, however, to consult a doctor before starting on any medication for stroke prevention. If you’d like further information on stroke, you can find out here.
Lastly, as always, if you’d like further guidance and support with formulating your own personal stroke prevention plan, our Homage care advisors and care specialists are always ready to help at your convenience. Simply ring us at 6100 0055.
And if you’re looking for someone to care for you and your loved ones, Homage provides caregiving services at every stage. Our trained care professionals are able to provide companionship, nursing care, night caregiving, home therapy and more, to keep your loved ones active and engaged.
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- National Registry of Diseases Office. (2018). Singapore Stroke Registry Annual Report 2018 [Stroke Registry Annual Report]. Retrieved 22 April, from https://www.nrdo.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider3/default-document-library/ssr-web-report-2018.pdf?sfvrsn=58eb7c4c_0
- National Health Service, Stroke – Prevention. (2021). [Webage]. Retrieved 22 April, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/prevention/
- Hu, D., Huang, J., Wang, Y., Zhang, D. & Qu, Y. (2014). Fruits and Vegetables Consumption and Risk of Stroke [Journal Article]. Retrieved April 22, from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.004836
- Tong, T., Appleby, P., Key, T., Dahm, C., Overvad, K., & Olsen, A. et al. (2020). The associations of major foods and fibre with risks of ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke: a prospective study of 418 329 participants in the EPIC cohort across nine European countries. European Heart Journal, 41(28), 2632-2640. doi: http:10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa007
- Cholesterol Medications. [Webpage]. Retrieved 22 April, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia/cholesterol-medications