Since stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, it is extremely important that we understand as much as we can about the condition. Stroke happens in the brain, so that is where most people tend to focus when they seek information about the disorder. But we want to talk a little bit about the connection between stroke and heart health.
Sometimes a blood clot can start in the heart, break loose and travel to the brain. Once in the brain the clot may end up blocking the flow of blood and oxygen, causing an embolic stroke. This is a case where medical intervention into cardiac functions could have stopped a stroke from happening. Some of the factors that could have caused the clot in the first place include:
- Atrial Fibrillation- This is an uneven heartbeat. The heart must beat at a set rhythm. The rhythm may speed up and slow down as your mood and activity levels change, but regardless, there should rhythm. Irregular rhythm in your heartbeat can cause blood clots which, as we said, can travel to the brain. Cardiac treatment options include:
- Medications can be administered to stabilize the heartbeat.
- Electrical cardioversion is a method of applying electrical shocks to the heart in order to restore proper rhythm.
- Radiofrequency ablation is another method used, whereby small tubes are fed through blood vessels towards the heart. Once they are in place, the tubes emit radio waves, which can work to affect the rhythm of the heart
- Damaged Heart Valves- The ventricles are kind of like gates between the chambers of your heart. They regulate blood flow and play a leading role in the operation of your circulatory system. When they are damaged, they need to be either repaired or replaced with prosthetic valves by a surgeon. Sometimes drugs can be used to prevent clotting that begins with the heart valves.
- High Cholesterol- Most often when you hear about cholesterol you hear about it in relation to your heart. Cholesterol is a substance that your body needs, and will produce on its own. However, many of the foods we like to eat, especially the greasy fatty ones, are filled with unnecessary cholesterol. Excess cholesterol builds up in the blood vessels and arteries, increasing risk of blood clots and decreasing blood flow.
- There are many medications that can lower your cholesterol
- Changing your diet by eating foods low in saturated fat and avoiding fried meals will definitely help lower your cholesterol
- Quitting the use of tobacco products also decreases cholesterol in the blood.
As you can see, taking care of your heart can play a huge role in avoiding stroke. If you think about it, your heart and your brain are arguably your two most important organs, so it makes sense that problems in one could affect the other. Talk to your doctor about taking care of your heart and ask for suggestions to improve your overall heart health. If you have any questions about stroke or your heart visit us or call our Consult-A-Nurse® hotline at (727) 869-5498.