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Back behind the wheel: Strokes

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Canada....

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Canada.

It is a condition that is often fatal, that can leave you both physically and mentally debilitated.

By being able to minimize your risk factors, you will significantly decrease your chances of having one.

Last month we looked at what a stroke is, this month we are going to look at the causes, risk factors and treatment of it.

Here are some statistics for you to think about: stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada – approximately 40, 000 to 50, 000 Canadians will have a stroke this year and 16, 000 of these individuals will die from it.

About 300,000 Canadians are living with the physical/mental side effects of a stroke, and after the age of 55 your risk of stroke doubles every 10 years.

A person who has suffered a stroke has a 20 per cent chance of having another one within the next two years.

It costs the Canadian economy $2.7 billion dollars a year and three million days spent in the hospital.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is decreased, resulting in cellular death.

When a blood vessel in the brain becomes “clogged” or ruptures (break), the end result is a stroke.

Blood clots (thrombus), aneurysm (tear in blood vessel), and embolism are the three most common causes of a stroke.

A thrombus/blood clot is an accumulation of blood factors, consisting primarily of platelets and fibrin.

Uncontrollable bleeding

Inside the artery these blood factors start to stick to the wall, which causes a narrowing of the artery, decreasing/disrupting blood flow.

An aneurysm is a tear in the artery, which leads to uncontrollable bleeding inside the brain.

An embolism is a sudden blocking of an artery by a clot or foreign material, which has been brought to the brain via the circulatory system.

There are many risk factors that are associated with stroke.

The number one risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure.

Each time your heart beats it pushes blood throughout your body increasing the pressure within the arteries.

BP measures the amount of force that is being exerted within the blood vessels on its walls.

The higher your BP is, the harder your blood vessels are working. Over a period of time, this will increase the wear and tear on your blood vessels, which may make them more susceptible to rupturing.

An ideal BP reading for an average adult is 120mm Hg/80 mm hg.

If you have a blood pressure reading that is over 140/90, you are considered to have mild hypertension.

Other risk factors include: elevated cholesterol, smoking, family history of stroke, age, gender, obesity, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle and increased alcohol consumption.

If you have one or all of the risk factors, however, it does not guarantee that you will have a stroke in your lifetime.

Research has shown that the higher your blood pressure/cholesterol is, the more you smoke and the older you get etc., the greater your chance of having a stroke.

Eating right, exercising, avoiding smoking/drinking, and managing your stress level is a good way to lower/manage your risk. It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Getting to the hospital as quickly as possible may limit the amount of damage (cell death) to the brain.

Warning signs

Here are five warning signs that you should be aware of to be able to recognize the possibility of a stroke in progress.

Common symptoms associated with stroke include sudden weakness, numbing or tingling in the face, arm or leg, temporary loss of speech or comprehension of speech, loss of vision in one eye or double vision, severe/unusual headaches, dizziness and/or a sudden loss of balance.

These symptoms are very common for many different conditions and it may be hard to differentiate when it is a stroke or a benign (not serious) condition.

So don’t worry, it does not mean that you are having a stroke every time you experience any of the symptoms I have just mentioned. However if any of these symptoms occur “suddenly” without any explanation and it is different from anything you have ever experienced before, make sure you get to the hospital immediately.

Being active and having a healthy lifestyle is essential to reducing your risk of stroke.

If you are having a difficult time managing your risk factors, speak to your family doctor for more options.

Until next month, Happy New Year, drive safely and take care!

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1 888 252-7327, or e-mail

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