Stroke or Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA)
A stroke is the sudden death of brain cells due to a problem with the blood supply. When blood flow to the brain is impaired, oxygen and important nutrients cannot be delivered. The result is injury and then death to brain cells resulting in abnormal brain function. Blood flow to the brain can be disrupted by either a blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain.
A stroke is also referred to as a Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA). It is called a Temporary Ischemic Attack (TIA) when the symptoms are temporary (less than 24 hours), and a stroke when the loss of brain function is permanent.
Types of Strokes
There are two major types, embolic or ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic strokes.
Stroke by common usage usually refers to the more common embolic or ischemic stroke. These strokes occur from a blood clot that occurs inside the vessel and prevents blood flow to brain. Besides the development of atherosclerotic plaque and high blood pressure, other factors increasing the risk of stroke include smoking, diabetes, leukemia, aplastic anemia, brain tumors, gout and birth control pills. High homocysteine levels in the blood can also increase the risk of stroke.
Causes of Strokes
A clot that cuts off blood flow to a part of the brain is the most common cause. Plaque material or pieces of blood clots that travel to the brain are other common sources.
Overall, the chief cause of strokes are related to hardening of the arteries, which allows fatty deposits to accumulate inside the arteries causing a cascade of injury to the vessel walls eventually leading to clots that form inside the blood vessels. The slow development of atherosclerosis, which decreases blood flow to the brain, results in shrinkage of the brain and the development of dementia. A stroke can also result from bleeding or from a busted blood vessel in the brain as the result of high blood pressure.
Most CVAs are the result of atherosclerosis, hypertension or a combination of both.
The majority of patients with high blood pressure die of heart attack, not strokes. Therefore, medications have been shown to have little or no effect in reducing overall cardiovascular mortality in major clinical trials. Even when researchers lumped together all nine of the major hypertensive trials to achieve the statistical power of very large numbers, no significant trend was noticed in the ability of high blood pressure medication to reduce the mortality or morbidity of coronary heart disease.
In the United States, about 400,000 people a year suffer from strokes. Forty percent of these strokes may be fatal, but the 60% that live are often doomed to a life of suffering and disability. The cost of strokes is not just measured in the billions of dollars lost in work, hospitalization and the care of survivors in nursing homes. The major cost or impact of a stroke is the loss of an independent lifestyle that occurs in 30% of the survivors. After a stroke, a self-sustaining and enjoyable lifestyle may lose most of its quality as the person can no longer walk, feed or express themselves normally. The family members find themselves in a new role as caregivers: it is a true tragedy. What makes this event even more heartbreaking is that it never had to happen in the first place.
When patients are given all of the facts, including the real benefits of removing the disease rather than merely disguising its existence with drugs, they almost invariably choose the natural way to a healthy heart. Don’t be a statistic. You can choose to protect yourself from both heart attacks and strokes.
If you are on medication, the effects of this nutritional program are so decisive that you may find yourself dangerously over-medicated. It is important to work with a competent physician who can lower your dose of medications accordingly as your blood pressure and weight decrease. Besides office visits, I also offer phone consultations for those needing advice on medication adjustment that will be necessary for those with medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
For further reading:
Lewington S, Clarke R, Qizilbash N, et al. Age-specific relevance of usual blood pressure to vascular mortality: a meta-analysis of individual data for one million adults in 61 prospective studies. Lancet 2002;360:1903-1913.