A stroke can occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel carrying nutrients and oxygen to the brain, resulting in brain cell death. Doctors refer to this as an ischemic stroke.
A blood clot may cause an ischemic stroke due to obstruction in a blood vessel that transports blood to the brain, or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which people sometimes call a mini-stroke. In a TIA, the blockage is temporary, and the clot typically dislodges or dissolves quickly.
This article explains how a blood clot causes a stroke and whether blood clots cause all strokes. It also discusses risk factors and prevention of blood clots and stroke.
A blood clot is the formation of proteins, platelets, and cells that stick together and form a mass in the blood. The body produces blood clots to stop the bleeding after a person injures themselves, and they typically dissolve once the wound heals.
If the body produces abnormal or excessive blood clots, the blood clots may not break down as they should. These blood clots may block blood vessels, resulting in ischemic stroke or other health complications.
The fatty deposits can lead to
- Cerebral embolism: A cerebral embolism is a blood clot that forms somewhere in the circulatory system, usually in the heart or large arteries of the chest and neck. The most common cause is an irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation, which can cause a clot to form in the heart, dislodge, and travel through the bloodstream to the brain. Once the blood clot reaches a blood vessel in the brain too narrow to pass through, it obstructs blood flow and, therefore, oxygen to the brain.
- Cerebral thrombosis: This blood clot develops at the site of fatty plaque inside the blood vessel in the brain. The blood clot obstructs the passage of blood through the blood vessel and causes an ischemic stroke.
Learn about the difference between thrombosis and embolism.
What causes an ischemic stroke?
Blood clots cause most ischemic strokes, which account for
What causes a hemorrhagic stroke?
If an artery in the brain ruptures, the blood that leaks from it can cause the brain to swell. The pressure the swelling causes can damage brain cells. A hemorrhagic stroke
There are various risk factors for blood clots, including:
- family history of blood clots
- pregnancy and giving birth
- remaining in one position for a prolonged period, such as sitting during a long plane or car journey
- serious injuries
- serious surgeries, such as hip replacement
- some medications, such as birth control pills
Health conditions that may increase a person’s risk of blood clots include:
People at high risk of developing blood clots may need blood thinning medication, such as antiplatelets or anticoagulants.
Other steps that may help prevent blood clots include:
- stopping or avoiding smoking
- maintaining a moderate weight
- getting regular exercise
- moving around as soon as possible after surgery or illness
- moving around every few hours during long periods of sitting
Learn about treatment and home management for blood clots.
There are various risk factors for stroke,
- family history of stroke
- older age, as the risk of stroke increases after the age of 55
- sex, as females are more likely to die from stroke
- smoking or using tobacco
- eating a diet high in cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats
- drinking excessive alcohol
- getting too little physical activity
Health conditions that may increase a person’s risk of stroke include:
- previous TIA or stroke
- sickle cell disease
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
Read more about the risk factors for stroke.
While a person cannot change some risk factors of stroke, such as age and family history, some lifestyle choices can help prevent stroke,
- stopping or avoiding smoking
- eating a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol
- getting regular physical activity
- avoiding or limiting alcohol
- discussing health conditions with a doctor and taking steps to control diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease
Blood clots are the main cause of ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. A blood clot can obstruct blood flow and oxygen to the brain, resulting in brain cell death. It is a medical emergency.
Other cellular matter, such as plaque, can also obstruct blood vessels and result in an ischemic stroke. Sudden bleeding in the brain can also cause a stroke, which doctors call a hemorrhagic stroke.
Risk factors for blood clots and stroke include a family history of the conditions, smoking, and various other health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
A person may be able to help prevent blood clots and stroke by eating a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol, getting regular physical activity, and taking steps to manage other health conditions.