Causes of strokes explained

Causes of strokes explained

Illustration showing a normal cerebral artery and artery with atherosclerosis and blood clot. Blocked blood flow by the thrombus.An ischemic stroke (caused by blockages of blood vessels or arteries) develops gradually and can be as a result of years’ worth of plaque build-up (blockage within the arteries). A clot may either be stationary, having formed on the spot (known as a thrombus) or as a result of an accumulation of plaque, blood and other debris which formed elsewhere in the body and has travelled through the blood stream to the brain (known as an embolus).

Blood flow may become sluggish and can sometimes result in clots having formed because of other health problems, such as an irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation).

Haemorrhagic strokes are caused by bleeding in the brain as a result of aneurysms and ruptured arteries due to long-term damage, such as that from high blood pressure.

The most common risk factors of ischemic or haemorrhagic strokes include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Use of stimulant (or illicit) drugs, such as anabolic (muscle enhancing) steroids, cocaine and amphetamines
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