Can strokes be brought on by stress? What causes a stroke?

Can strokes be brought on by stress? What causes a stroke?

Question:
Michael Roizen, M.D.
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Michael Roizen, M.D.

As chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, Michael F. Roizen, MD, is on a mission to inform... Read more

There are two basic types of strokes. One is due to a lack of blood flow to an area of the brain, and the other is a rupture of blood vessels in a specific brain area. Both result in lack of nutrients, especially oxygen, reaching that brain area. In more than 90 percent of cases, stroke is due to the lack of blood flow. The leading cause of this is arterial disease, which is mainly related to four lifestyle choices: diet (poor food choices/oversized portions), tobacco use, lack of activity and stress.

A common denominator with all of these unhealthy lifestyle habits is high blood pressure, which is directly related to stroke. (Which is to say, more than 90 percent of strokes are preventable.) The goal should then be for you to do whatever is needed to get 115 over 75. That's the blood pressure reading associated with the least strokes and least brain aging. Blood pressure varies throughout the day. If you measure it six times in an hour or in a day or on six consecutive days, you'll get six different results. The goal is to have it at 115/75 most of the time. Most docs believe that stress, even without an elevation of blood pressure, adds to arterial dysfunction and inflammation in the arteries, both precursors to stroke.

The good news: All four of these lifestyle habits (including exposure to secondhand smoke) are within your control. You can eat less sugar, salt and saturated fat, and consume more Mediterranean protein (such as fish), fruits and vegetables, and smaller portion sizes overall. You can also take steps to manage stress, such as walking for 20 minutes on your lunch hour or taking 10 minutes twice a day to sit and simply focus on the sound of your breath.

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