An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain is blocked. This reduces the oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain and results in tissue damage. Ischemic strokes are divided into two classes: thrombotic strokes and embolic strokes (also known as cerebral embolism). Medical literature reports that cerebral embolism accounts for approximately 20% of ischemic strokes. In cerebral embolism, the blood flow is blocked due to an embolus (blood clot, fat material or air bubble), which is transported through the bloodstream from a part of the body to an artery in the brain.
Cerebral embolism is a serious life-threatening disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that stroke is the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death worldwide. According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S.A alone, 140,000 people die each year as the result of a stroke; this is 1 out of every 20 deaths.
Unfortunately, it is a very common condition, so it is crucial to know the best ways to prevent it. Therefore, we present 10 ways to reduce your chances of suffering a cerebral embolism. They include 5 lifestyle changes and 5 diseases that require management.
1- Follow a healthy diet
High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase the risk of suffering a stroke. Therefore, if you would like to avoid suffering a cerebral embolism you should eat a healthy diet. Make sure that your meals consist mainly of fiber, fruits and vegetables and have reduced amounts of saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol. In addition, limit the salt you eat, as a sodium excess will increase your blood pressure.
2- Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight also increases the chance of having a cerebral embolism, so calculate your body mass index (BMI) and make sure it is within the healthy range according to your weight and height.
3- Do exercise
Doing exercise is also a good tip to prevent a cerebral embolism, as it helps you to maintain a healthy weight and to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels. For most people, 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as fast walking, is recommended.
4- Do not smoke
Smoking narrows your arteries and significantly increases your chances of having a cerebral embolism.
5- Limit your alcohol intake
Excessive alcohol consumption is another risk, because it can raise your blood pressure. Alcohol can also induce atrial fibrillation and cause weight gain; both of which can lead to a cerebral embolism. Therefore, avoid drinking too much alcohol. Moderate consumption for men is no more than two alcoholic drinks per day and no more than one for women.
Management of diseases
Some medical conditions increase the risk of suffering a cerebral embolism. If you have been diagnosed with one of the following health problems, you should take your regular medication and follow your doctor’s instructions. It is very important to keep the disease under control, in order to avoid a future stroke.
1- High cholesterol
Test your cholesterol at least once every 5 years, as patients with high cholesterol require medication and lifestyle changes to lower their risk of a cerebral embolism.
2- High blood pressure
Check your blood pressure levels regularly, as people with high blood pressure usually do not have any symptoms, but are more likely to suffer a cerebral embolism. Changes in diet and medication can restore healthy blood pressure levels.
If you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, you can reduce your risk of having a cerebral embolism by monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly, taking your medication, exercising and eating healthily.
4- Heart conditions
Treating heart problems, such as atrial fibrillation, can help to prevent a cerebral embolism, so ensure that you take your medication or undergo the recommended surgery.
5- Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
If you have had a TIA in the past, you should talk to your medical provider in order to prevent future strokes. Your doctor might prescribe you medication, recommend surgery or a change to your lifestyle, in order to reduce the risk of another stroke.