According to the New York Times, strokes kill 140,000 Americans a year, making it the third leading cause of death.
A stroke occurs “when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted because a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts open,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The two types of strokes—ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke—have different causes. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot, which prevents the blood from reaching the brain. There are two subtypes of an ischemic stroke: a thrombotic stroke is when a blood clot blocks a narrow artery, called a thrombus, while an embolic stroke is when a clot breaks off and travels up to the brain, called an embolism. A hemorrhagic stroke, on the other hand, is caused by a burst blood vessel.
While strokes are more common in men, women have an increased risk during and shortly after a pregnancy. Other risk factors for strokes include high blood pressure, a family history of stroke, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and increasing age. Since a stroke can result in death or neurological damage, high risk persons should look for preventative measures. The NIH notes that aspirin therapy can be used by women ages 65 and younger, where they take 81 mg a day or 100 mg every two days. Women interested in an aspirin therapy should consult their doctors beforehand. Other lifestyle changes that can help prevent a stroke include avoiding fatty foods and exercising regularly.
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