Claiming Back 3.1 Million Lives Each Year

21.07.2017 |

Episode #2 of the course Stroke prevention: Living longer and better by Marselina Arshakyan



In today’s, lesson we’ll start with the leading risk factor for stroke, which is high blood pressure or hypertension. It alone accounts for almost half (47.9 %) of the total risk for stroke globally. It’s also the most significant controllable risk factor and, therefore, the key target for reducing the worldwide burden of stroke.

According to the World Health Organization, stroke claims 6.2 million lives each year. The reason for half of them was high blood pressure.

If I ask your height and weight, perhaps you know both. But what if I ask you about your blood pressure? Hmm, probably, you have no idea.

High blood pressure is sometimes also called the “silent killer” because you can have it for years without warning signs or symptoms. But if you’re age 20 and older, you need to know and monitor your blood pressure numbers and keep them low. Talk to your doctor first. In terms of stroke prevention, every little decrease in blood pressure readings counts.


What is normal and high blood pressure?

A blood pressure reading is always given as two numbers. The first number indicates systolic pressure, i.e., the force of the blood when your heart pumps, and the second, diastolic pressure, i.e., the force of the blood when your heart rests. A blood pressure reading below 120/80 is considered normal.

If yours is 140/90, you’re at a higher risk of having a stroke by 55% compared to adults with normal blood pressure. Consider a few lifestyle changes to reduce your blood pressure, such as a low-salt and low-fat diet, daily exercise, stress reduction, and no or moderate alcohol consumption. It is also very important you discuss with your doctor and consider your other risk factors linked with hypertension, such as diabetes.

And if your blood pressure readings are consistently greater than 160/90, then you’re at the greatest risk, and healthy lifestyle choices won’t be enough to lower your blood pressure to a normal range. In addition, you’ll need to take medication. In this case, don’t forget to take your pills on time and as prescribed by a doctor. Although this caution sounds like an easy one, a lot of people have a hard time with it.


Pay attention to your heartbeat!

An irregular or “racing” heartbeat is a warning sign of a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, which makes you five times more likely to suffer a stroke. Besides, irregular-heartbeat-related strokes cause more deaths than strokes caused by other factors. It can happen at any age, mainly to people who have heart disease or thyroid disorders, but it is more common as people get older.

Global age-adjusted prevalence rates of AF (per 100,000 persons). Chung et al., 2014

If you notice fluttering, racing, or pounding feelings in your chest, or dizziness, faintness, and lightheadedness, then ask your doctor to check your pulse and look for an underlying cause.

A healthy heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute with an even and steady rhythm. During an irregular heartbeat, the pulse rises to 400-450 times per minute and feels random and uneven. If untreated, it can increase stroke risks, also in association with sleep-disordered breathing, a condition involving snoring and partial or complete blockage of the airway during sleep.


Snoring as a risk factor for a wake-up stroke

Recent research indicates that effective treatment of breathing difficulties occurring during sleep, including snoring, significantly improves not only quality of life but also outcomes in wake-up stroke (i.e., when a person goes to sleep normal and awakens with stroke symptoms).

Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep that can affect anyone at all ages (20% of the adult population aged 30–70 years) and both genders, but it’s more frequent in men and overweight people. It’s a symptom of sleep-disordered breathing, which has been linked with and may even contribute to the development of stroke independently or through increasing the risks of both hypertension and irregular heartbeat.

So, your goal is to get regular and good-quality sleep without snoring. As suggested by the National Sleep Foundation, the options to treat snoring will generally include:

• lifestyle modification

• surgery

• use of appliances

Your choice of strategy should be consulted with your doctor.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss smoking as a modifiable risk factor and stroke genetics as a non-modifiable risk factor of stroke.

Have a nice day, and go to bed before midnight! :)

Marselina A.


Recommended reading

Snoring solutions, aids and remedies


Recommended book

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.


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