Common causes of stroke include:
- High blood pressure. Also called hypertension, this is the biggest cause of stroke. High blood pressure damages blood vessels, making them more likely to develop clots or rupture.
- Tobacco, especially smoking. Smoking increases your risk of having a stroke and dying from a stroke. Cigarettes can decrease the levels of “good” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Carbon monoxide from tobacco smoke decreases the amount oxygen in your blood, and nicotine makes your heart beat faster. The chemicals in tobacco smoke also can increase your chance of blood clots by making platelets more likely to stick together.
- Cardiovascular disease. Elevated high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels cause plaque to build up in your blood vessels. This can have consequences for your heart health, but the plaque also can break loose and lodge in your brain or an artery supplying blood to the brain, causing a stroke.
- Uncontrolled glucose levels can cause blood vessels to change anywhere in the body. If it happens in the brain, stroke can be a result. Patients with diabetes are more likely to die from stroke.
Heart Disease and Stroke
An ischemic stroke (blood clot blocking blood flow in the brain) often can be traced to cardiovascular conditions such as atrial fibrillation, atherosclerosis and carotid artery disease.
Treating these underlying conditions can help prevent another stroke. Our stroke neurologists work with the specialists at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute to reduce your stroke risk.
Patients with atrial fibrillation (A-fib), an irregular heart rhythm, that isn’t caused by a heart valve condition, are at high risk for stroke. In A-fib, the chambers at top of the heart — the atria — don’t pump out all the blood, making blot clots more likely.
More than 90% of stroke-causing clots that originate in the heart come from the left atrial appendage. This pouch of flesh on the heart serves no known purpose. For many patients, closing the appendage with a minimally invasive left atrial appendage closure procedure can reduce their stroke risk and allow them to stop taking blood thinners.
Carotid artery disease — a buildup of plaque in the arteries that deliver blood to your brain — causes an estimated 20% of strokes. Many patients can take advantage of a minimally invasive transcarotid artery revascularization (TCAR) procedure. TCAR currently is used on patients who may have difficulty with traditional open surgery to remove the plaque.
What Happens After a Stroke?
A stroke typically happens suddenly with no gradual progression that allows for preparation, grieving and coping.
Many patients will recover quickly and fully from a stroke. Some may have post-stroke conditions such as difficulty swallowing, weakness and paralysis, incontinence, difficulty speaking or understanding, emotional challenges or poor attention span.
If a stroke was on the right side of the brain, there may be left-side weakness, impulsiveness, overconfidence in abilities and vision issues to deal with. A stroke on the left side of the brain can be associated with weakness on the right side of the body, along with difficulty speaking, reading, writing or understanding language, and a cautious behavioral style.
The Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center offers a number of services to patients recovering from strokes.
- Support groups, including one for young stroke survivors
- Exercise classes
- Art and music therapy
- Access to a social worker and disability representative
- Transportation assistance screening
- Screening for other community and government resources
- A Lego therapy program to help exercise the mind.
With the changes and stress that come with caring for a loved one who has survived a stroke, caregivers and family members also may be at risk for depression, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. Our stroke support groups are for survivors and their family members, friends and caregivers.
Norton Healthcare’s rehabilitation services offer specialized outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy at locations downtown, on the Norton Brownsboro Hospital campus and on the Norton Healthcare – St. Matthews campus.
Cressman Neurological Rehabilitation on the Norton Brownsboro campus offers access to some of the most advanced technology and specialized services in one location to help with gait, balance, strength, flexibility, speech, fine motor skills, swallowing, driving, cognition, vision and more.