In the United States, strokes are the fifth leading cause of death according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Every year, 800,000 people every year will suffer a stroke, and, sadly, there is no miracle remedy for a stroke. The best way to cure a stroke is to try to avoid it. 

In order to understand how to avoid and prevent a stroke, you might be wondering what causes strokes? Below you’ll find an overview of the common causes of a stroke so you know what to look out for.

What Causes Strokes?

The cause of a stroke is determined by the type of stroke that has occurred. Generally speaking, strokes can be divided into three categories:

  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Hemorrhagic stroke

Each type of stroke has its own set of possible causes, but for all three types we can say that a person is more likely to suffer a stroke if they have any of the following characteristics:

  • High blood pressure: Your physician may refer to this as hypertension. It is the most common cause of strokes. If your blood pressure is normally 130/80 or higher, your will likely explore treatment options with your doctor.
  • Tobacco: Smoking or chewing tobacco increases your risk of having a stroke. Nicotine causes an increase in blood pressure by thickening your blood and it increases the probabilities of forming clots. Cigarette smoke is also responsible for the accumulation of fatty material in the major neck artery.
  • Weight and physical activity: If you are overweight, your risk of having a stroke may increase. The good news is that you can lower your risk by exercising daily and consuming a healthy diet. For example, take a 30 minute fast walk or perform muscle strengthening exercises such as pushups. Try to avoid at all costs soft drinks and fast food as they are associated with increased risk of strokes.
  • Genetics: Strokes can also be hereditary. You and your family members may have a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure or diabetes. For instance, certain strokes are caused by a hereditary disease that restricts blood flow to the brain. We recommend verifying with your doctor if you suspect you have a hereditary predisposition to strokes.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack, more commonly referred to as a TIA, or ministroke, happens when blood supply to the brain is suddenly obstructed. Transient Ischemic Attacks, like ischemic strokes, are caused by blood clots.

Even though the symptoms are transient, they should be treated as a medical emergency. They act as precursors for future strokes and indicate a partially blocked artery or a clot source in the heart.

Ischemic Stroke

This form of stroke occurs when the arteries that provide blood to the brain become blocked or narrower. Cerebral embolism and cerebral thrombosis are two types of obstructions that can result in ischemic stroke.

A cerebral embolism occurs when a blood clot forms in another region of the body — most frequently the heart or the arteries in the upper chest and neck — and travels through the bloodstream until it reaches a narrow artery and becomes blocked.

Cerebral thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms within the blood vessel’s fatty plaque.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by leaky or burst arteries in the brain. Leaking blood exerts pressure on brain cells, causing them to malfunction. Additionally, it lowers the blood flow to the brain region following the hemorrhage.

Uncontrolled hypertension and excessive use of blood thinners can result in this type of stroke.
The most common type of hemorrhagic stroke is intracerebral hemorrhage. It occurs when the tissues around the brain become flooded with blood as a result of an arterial burst.

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