The fourth most common cause of death in the United States is stroke, which happens when the supply of blood to the brain is interrupted. Since blood is needed to carry oxygen to the brain, stroke needs to be treated immediately, before the lack of oxygen causes irreversible or even fatal damage. That’s why there is such a big focus on prevention. The best way to avoid damage from a stroke is to not have one in the first place:
- Keep your blood pressure under control.
- Don’t smoke. Stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine can also cause stroke.
- Be sure you are at a healthy weight and get plenty of exercise.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
Researchers have found a treatment regimen that can be effective quickly if it is administered right away. Ordinarily, stroke is treated with a drug known as tPA, which dissolves the clots and restores bloodflow to the brain tissue. It has to be administered within three hours. A recent study showed that tPA can be combined with another drug, one that closes a communication channel within the blood cells and prevents clots from forming. This combination is faster and more thorough than the tPA alone, meaning the damage done by the stroke is reduced.
That damage often includes partial paralysis, but a recent study found that some recovery may be possible even years later and even with a significant amount of damage to the brain. In fact, while a larger area of damage will mean more extensive impairment initially, it doesn’t affect the ability to recover in the long run.
Interestingly, the gut bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which is responsible for gastric ulcers, protects against stroke. In fact, people with the most virulent type of H. pylori had less than half the risk of death from stroke of people without the bacteria. This finding was the conclusion of a 12-year study. This is one of a handful of conditions that H. pylori protects against; others include lung cancer and childhood asthma.