Other Heart Problems, Smoking, and Stroke
Controlling Other Heart Problems
Common heart disorders can result in blood clots that may break loose and block vessels in or leading to the brain. Heart disorders can include:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD), which most people refer to as simply heart disease
- Heart valve defects, such as mitral valve stenosis
- Irregular heart rhythms other than atrial fibrillation
- Congestive heart failure.
If you have a heart disorder, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication, such as aspirin, to help prevent the formation of clots. Your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to clean out a clogged neck artery if you match a particular risk profile. If you are over 50, your healthcare provider can evaluate your risk factors and help you decide if you will benefit from aspirin or other blood-thinning therapy.
Cigarette smoking has been linked to the buildup of fatty substances in the carotid artery, which is the main neck artery that supplies blood to the brain. Blockage of this artery is the leading cause of stroke in Americans. Consider the following:
- Nicotine raises blood pressure
- Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to the brain
- Cigarette smoke makes your blood thicker and more likely to clot.
Because of these combined effects, smoking is thought to double a person's chances of having a stroke. Smoking is directly responsible for a greater percentage of the total number of strokes in young adults than in older adults.