Most people experience some level of inflammation in the brain after a stroke. While inflammation can be alarming, it helps to understand why acute inflammation occurs and the need to promote healing immediately after an injury.
However, if the inflammation becomes chronic or long-term, it can put you at risk for potentially serious medical conditions and increase your risk of having another stroke. Depending on the location of the inflammation (either in the brain or elsewhere in the body) and the severity of the injury, it can also be life-threatening.
Fortunately, lifestyle and diet changes can reduce inflammation, which can also help lower your risk of having a stroke again. This article explains how inflammation can be either positive or negative depending on the circumstances and what you can do to reduce inflammation in your brain and body.
What is inflammation?
Table of contents
- 1 What is inflammation?
- 2 Inflammation in the brain after a stroke
- 3 Inflammation in the body after a stroke
- 4 How to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation after a stroke
- 5 Understand the link between stroke and inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s defense mechanism and is an important part of the healing process in all types of injuries, including stroke. However, before discussing the correlation between inflammation and stroke, it helps to understand what causes inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is the body’s immune response to noxious stimuli. Immune cells in the body first release inflammatory mediators such as histamine and bradykinin. These mediators or hormones cause small blood vessels in tissues to dilate (become wider). This allows more blood and immune cells to reach the damaged tissue and support the healing process. However, the released hormones also irritate the nerves and cause pain signals to be sent to the brain.
When the body suffers an injury or encounters harmful substances such as bacteria or viruses, the immune system is activated. The immune system automatically sends out its first responders, which include cytokines and inflammatory cells. These cells trigger an inflammatory response by trapping bacteria and other harmful substances, allowing the damaged tissue to heal. Although this process is designed to protect the body, it can cause pain, swelling, bruising, and/or redness.
Additionally, there are two main types of inflammation that can occur: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. Acute (short-term) inflammation refers to a sudden response to bodily harm, such as B. cutting your finger. To support wound healing, the body sends inflammatory cells to the site of the injury. When the body continues to send out inflammatory cells even when there is no outside threat, it leads to chronic (long-term) inflammation.
Inflammation in the brain after a stroke
This precise mechanism is used when a person suffers a neurological injury such as a stroke. When a stroke occurs, the body’s immune system automatically sends out agents to repair the damage and fight off pollutants. While this is a necessary step in the healing process, it can become potentially harmful in the long run.
After a stroke, when blood flow is restored to the injured area, the white blood cells and inflammatory cells also flow in. This can lead to the production of several reactive and toxic chemicals that cause additional tissue damage. While this strategy can be helpful in various areas of the body where damaged tissue can be replaced, it cannot be applied to the brain.
Because chronic inflammation in the brain can lead to permanent damage to tissue that has not been deprived of oxygen. While acute inflammation is initially helpful after a stroke, chronic inflammation in the brain can increase the risk of other conditions and even a second stroke.
Now that you understand the role of inflammation in the brain after a stroke, let’s discuss the consequences of inflammation in the body.
Inflammation in the body after a stroke
Inflammation in the body serves as a defense mechanism against infection and injury. However, poor lifestyle and dietary habits can lead to long-term bodily inflammation. When the body has inflammation for a long time, especially in vulnerable areas like the arteries, it can lead to chronic inflammation and increase the risk of stroke.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to various parts of the body, including the brain. Inflammation causes the walls of the arteries to swell, making it difficult for blood to flow properly. In addition, inflammation can lead to blockages or aneurysms in the arteries, which can lead to serious consequences such as a heart attack or stroke. For example, if a small artery that supplies blood to the deep parts of the brain is blocked, it can lead to a lacunar stroke.
Therefore, it is important to understand the various factors that contribute to inflammation in the body so that you can take the necessary precautions. With proper care, you can lower your risk of chronic inflammation and a second stroke.
How to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation after a stroke
Although some level of inflammation is common in many people after a stroke, there are ways to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation. This may involve a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes. However, it’s important to consult your doctor before adding or removing anything to make sure it’s safe for you.
Here are some evidence-based recommendations to help you reduce the risk of chronic inflammation after a stroke:
1. Manage cholesterol and glucose levels
Maintaining adequate cholesterol and glucose levels is essential to reducing the risk of stroke and chronic inflammation. High cholesterol is one of the main causes of stroke. While a certain amount of cholesterol is necessary for the body, excess cholesterol can cause inflammation in the arteries. Likewise, certain amounts of glucose (sugar) are needed to fuel the body, but an excess can cause diabetes, another leading cause of stroke.
In order to control your cholesterol and glucose levels, it is important to have regular check-ups with your doctor. If they suspect your levels are high, they may recommend you make dietary changes, such as eating less. B. Reducing the amount of saturated fats you consume, including butter, red meat, and white foods.
Your doctor may also recommend increasing your fiber intake and adapting to new lifestyle habits, such as daily exercise. In some cases, medication may be needed to control cholesterol or glucose levels, such as insulin. Consult your doctor first to see if the drug is right for you.
2. Eat anti-inflammatory foods
Many foods can contribute to high cholesterol or diabetes, which can increase the risk of stroke. Therefore, knowing what foods are safe to eat is important to reduce your risk of stroke and inflammation. This can include a variety of anti-inflammatory foods such as different fruits and vegetables.
Anti-inflammatory foods can include:
- Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Leafy Vegetables
- olive oil
- Fruits like strawberries, blueberries and oranges
While these foods can help you fight the risk of stroke and excess inflammation, it’s important to consult with your doctor and nutritionist. You can ensure you are consuming a diet that is safe for your individual condition.
3. Get enough hours of sleep
Lack of sleep can promote excessive inflammation in the brain and body. Studies show that sleep deprivation can increase levels of inflammatory mediators, or hormones. While a certain number of inflammatory cells are necessary to fight off infection and other diseases, elevated levels of these mediators can lead to chronic inflammation and increase the risk of other diseases, such as high blood pressure.
To prevent this, it is important to get adequate sleep each day, which can range from 7 to 9 hours each night. If daytime naps are interfering with your ability to sleep through the night, limiting naps can help to get a good night’s sleep.
Additionally, if you’re struggling with sleep disorders like sleep apnea, consult your doctor to explore different treatments. They can help you get better quality sleep to reduce the risk of chronic inflammation and promote overall health.
4. Reduce stress
Studies suggest that it may be more than just lack of sleep that can cause inflammation. Inadequate rest can make you more vulnerable to stress, which leads to excess inflammation in the body. For this reason, stress is also associated with an increased risk of stroke.
There are several methods to help you manage your stress throughout the day, such as yoga, meditation, and psychotherapy. To explore other options like medication, it’s important to consult your doctor to see which treatment is right for you.
5. Exercise regularly
Chronic inflammation can cause insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and a host of other diseases. Fortunately, exercise offers long-term anti-inflammatory effects that may help survivors lower their risk of long-term inflammation.
Although moving after a stroke can be difficult, it’s important to do as much light exercise as possible to reduce inflammation. Be sure to consult your doctor or therapist to find out which exercises are safe for you. They can offer you specific exercises or activities tailored to your ability level.
While these tips can help you reduce your risk of chronic inflammation after a stroke, it’s important to consult your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Inflammation can occur at the onset of a stroke or as a result. Although acute inflammation aids the healing process by sending inflammatory cells to the site of injury, chronic inflammation in the body can increase the risk of stroke and other diseases.
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of stroke, such as: B. by eating anti-inflammatory foods and maintaining adequate cholesterol and glucose levels.
We hope this article has helped you understand the connection between inflammation and stroke and what safety measures you can take.