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What Every Man Needs to Know About Strokes

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How can I prevent a stroke?

Hemorrhagic strokes are best prevented by controlling high blood pressure. The less pressure there is on the walls of your blood vessels, the less likely they are to burst.

The more common ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots -- the same villains responsible for heart attacks. To decrease the risks, you need to keep your arteries clear of plaque -- the gunk that builds up in them and leads to clotting. Ways to do this include:

  • Exercising for at least half an hour on most days of the week
  • Eating right -- preferably a diet low in saturated fat (such as that in processed meats) and high in fruits and vegetables
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking -- smokers are twice as likely to have a stroke

Certain heart conditions -- such as atrial fibrillation, which causes the heart to pump less efficiently than it should -- can also cause clots that lead to strokes. High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol raise your risk too. If you have any of these conditions, you'll need to keep them under control with lifestyle changes or medication. Low-dose aspirin can reduce stroke risk, although it may not help younger men already at low risk for stroke. Talk to your doctor before starting aspirin therapy.

Some risk factors for stroke -- such as increasing age and family history -- can't be controlled. Even so, making changes to your way of life can still have a big positive effect.

How are strokes treated?

Specific stroke treatment depends on the type of stroke. If caught in time, ischemic strokes can be treated with drugs called clot busters (thrombolytics). Clot busters can quickly dissolve the blockage, restoring blood flow to the affected area and preserving brain cells.

Hemorrhagic strokes are difficult to treat -- usually, it's necessary to simply watch and wait for bleeding to stop on its own. Occasionally, hemorrhagic strokes can be treated with surgery or other procedures.

The main problem with treating strokes is catching them in time. Clot-busters need to be given within a few hours of the very first symptoms of a stroke.

As you recover -- and stroke recovery can be slow -- you're likely to need ongoing treatment. The problem is that having one stroke puts you at risk for having more. If you've had an ischemic stroke, your doctor might recommend blood thinners -- drugs that reduce your blood's tendency to clot. Stents can also be surgically implanted to open up a clogged artery.

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