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Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease and is sometimes called a CVA (Cerebral Vascular Accident).

It affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, a part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs and it starts to die. When brain cells die, control of abilities which that area of the brain once controlled are lost. This includes functions such as speech, movement, and memory.

The specific abilities lost or affected depend on where in the brain the stroke occurs and on the extent of brain cell death. For example, someone who has a small stroke may experience only minor effects such as weakness of an arm or leg. On the other hand, someone who has a larger stroke may be left paralyzed on one side or lose their ability to express and process language. Some people recover completely from less serious strokes, while others are permanently disabled or lose their lives to very severe strokes.

Who is at risk of having a stroke?

Both stroke and heart disease share many of the same risk factors:

  • being overweight or obese - are you?
  • lack of exercise - exercise more!
  • high blood pressure - what is it?
  • unhealthy diet - eat healthy!
  • diabetes - what is it?
  • high cholesterol
  • family history
  • high salt intake
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • smoking
  • age - risk increases with age
  • ethnicity - some ethnic groups are at more risk than others
  • heart disease
  • atrial fibrillation
  • carotid artery disease

Some risk factors you cannot do very much about, such as your age or your ethnicity. However, you do have some control over your diet, weight and the amount of exercise you take - why not use the resources available to you on this site to minimise your risk factors?