Your brain and heart health go hand-in-hand because they both rely on a good blood supply and healthy arteries to function well.
“Strokes are a known complication of heart attacks and it’s not uncommon for heart attacks to happen after a stroke. The main reason is because stroke survivors usually have one or more health conditions or habits that put them at high risk of having both heart attacks and strokes, but sometimes other factors can also be at play,” says Dr Tham.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes mellitus and smoking all damage the blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the heart and brain. This makes it easier for the blood vessels to get blocked, which can lead to heart attacks and ischaemic strokes. The damage caused by high blood pressure can cause the blood vessels to burst in the brain resulting in haemorrhagic strokes.
That is why it is so important for both stroke and heart attack survivors to quit smoking and to take the medications prescribed by their doctor to control their risk factors.
In Singapore, eight in 10 stroke patients and more than seven in 10 heart attack patients have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.
Medication for these conditions often has to be taken long-term to keep blood pressure and cholesterol at normal levels. If you have experienced any side-effects from your pills, tell your doctor. They can adjust the dose and/or prescribe you a different medication to find a combination that works well for you.
Atrial fibrillation (AF), is a form of irregular heart rhythm that can cause blood clots to form in the heart. These can travel through the blood vessels to the brain resulting in an ischaemic stroke (blocked artery in the brain) – AF causes around one in five ischaemic strokes in Singapore.
AF can either come and go (paroxysmal AF) or be present all the time (persistent AF), however both types increase the risk of stroke.
Some people with AF have no symptoms, while others may experience one or more of the following:
Early detection of AF and paroxysmal AF after stroke are crucial because blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants) can prevent another ischaemic stroke from occurring.
To improve the chance of detecting paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, NNI started using a remote holter monitoring service for stroke patients in February 2022. This palm sized- portable device is placed on the chest and can be worn continuously for one to seven days. It can be easily removed and put on again after activities such as showering. This allows patients to have their heart beat monitored at home while doing their normal activities, instead of having to be hospitalised for this.
This article was published in the National Neuroscience Institute's NeusLink magazine, which covers articles about NNI updates and brain, spine, muscle and nerve conditions in English and Chinese - to read more articles, click here!
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