A result of genetic disorders, poor lifestyle choices or personal/family history, Strokes are a seriously life-threatening medical condition that happens when the blood supply to part of the brain cuts off. Reports suggest in the UK, stroke strikes someone in the UK once every 5 minutes, meaning over 100,000 people a year will suffer from a stroke. Risk factors for stroke correlate with various genetic or cardiac conditions so this Stroke Awareness Month we’d love to highlight some of the conditions causing stroke and what you can do to prevent it.
Stroke – How to Spot it and What to Do
About 85% of strokes are ischaemic strokes caused by a blockage (usually a blood clot) cutting off the blood supply to the brain. The other kind are Haemorrhagic strokes are caused by a blood vessel bursting in the brain. It is essential to be able to recognise the main stroke symptoms by using the word FAST.
FACE – Face may be dropped to one side and not able to smile or the mouth/eye drooped
ARMS – The person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there.
SPEECH – Slurred or garbled, person may not be able to talk at all. Problems understanding what you’re saying.
TIME – Time to dial 999 immediately if any of these symptoms are spotted.
If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, immediately call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Cause 1 – Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
CVD according to the World Health Organization is the world’s leading cause of death, responsible for 17.9 million losses in 2019. This accounted for 32% of deaths globally, 85% of which were due to heart attack and stroke.
Whilst the causes are unclear, we do understand the biggest risk factors when it comes to CVD and stroke:
High Cholesterol (LDL)
Because strokes are caused by a part of your brains blood supply being separated, it’s essential that we keep our LDL cholesterol to a minimum. The British Heart Foundation state that too much LDL cholesterol build up on the inside walls of your arteries increases your risk of stroke.
LDL cholesterol build up is a result of eating too much fatty foods, lack of exercise, smoking, and excessive drinking.
High Blood Pressure
The NHS state that Haemorrhagic strokes are mainly caused by high blood pressure which weakens the arteries, making them more likely to split or rupture.
Stroke Association have identified that you are at greater risk of high blood pressure if you experience more than one of these risk factors:
- Older age
- Family history
- High salt intake
- Lack exercise
- Binge Drinking
Testing for CVD
If you are aware that you are currently living an unhealthy lifestyle, now is the time to act. A single test can identify your cholesterol levels, with advice on lifestyle changes to minimise your risk of stroke.
Heart Health is available at-home or in-clinic.
Cause 2 – Genetic Defects/Disorders
Genetic factors play a role in high blood pressure, stroke, and other related cardiac conditions. People with a family history of stroke are likely to share common factors that increase their risk. Several genetic disorders can increase your risk of stroke, including:
Genetic Haemochromatosis, otherwise known as Iron Overload disorder, is the UKs most common inherited condition causing your body to absorb too much iron.
A recent study found that those with Haemochromatosis are at increased risk of ischemic stroke without early intervention.
Genetic Testing for Haemochromatosis is now available at our health clinics in London, Liverpool & Northern Ireland with an easy-to-interpret report and the option to book an appointment with our genetic counsellor.
If you have always lived a healthy lifestyle and yet have either suffered yourself or have a family history of heart attack/stroke, you may have Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH).
FH is a genetic disorder preventing your liver from removing LDL cholesterol and is a common cause of high Cholesterol. Our genetic councillors can talk you through how you can get tested and what the results mean for you and your family.
Hereditary Cardiac Risk
Although rare, it can’t be underestimated how important detecting hereditary disorders early is. Up to 1 in 100 people can have some form of inherited cardiac condition.
- Arteriopathy – A disease of the arteries.
- Cardiomyopathy – A disease of the heart muscle, which are either thick, stretched, or stiff.
- Arrhythmias – Abnormal rhythm of the heart.
Our hereditary cardiac testing panel covers the above conditions and more with over 170 genes related to 17 inherited cardiac conditions that may cause stroke, heart attack and other complications.