Stroke While Running: Causes, Recognition, and Prevention

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), stroke incidents during sports activities, primarily running, are mainly associated with high blood pressure or cardiovascular issues. When the body is overexerted, it can trigger a relapse of underlying conditions and lead to a stroke. To gain a better understanding of stroke while running, let’s explore the following article.

Causes of stroke while running

Stroke, including cardiac arrest leading to fatality during running, is not uncommon. While running offers numerous health benefits, there are inherent risks if one lacks basic knowledge.

The causes of stroke during running are believed to be related to the following four factors:

  • Coronary artery disease: Running or excessive physical activity can trigger a relapse of coronary artery disease, leading to a stroke.
  • Unrecognized cardiac conditions/Congenital heart issues: Lack of awareness about one’s own cardiac condition may lead individuals to participate in running and intense exercise, resulting in a stroke. This is a leading cause of stroke during running, especially among young individuals.
  • Heatstroke: Heat-related thermoregulatory disturbances during running, caused by excessive heat and inadequate management or timely emergency response, can also lead to a stroke.
  • Excessive accumulation of lactic acid in muscles: During continuous running, insufficient oxygen supply to the muscles occurs. In response, the muscles utilize stored glucose to sustain activity. However, the use of this oxygen-deprived energy source generates lactic acid, a compound that causes muscle soreness and fatigue. As lactic acid accumulates, it intensifies sensations of heat, muscle fatigue, cramping, and spasms. Furthermore, excessive lactic acid can inhibit nerve function, resulting in slowed heart rate, cardiac arrest, and stroke.

Additionally, certain running mistakes can also contribute to stroke incidents. For example:

  • Overstriding, which wastes energy, affects running posture, and increases the risk of injuries, including stroke and complications.
  • Running at an excessively fast pace or high intensity unsuited to one’s physical fitness can cause oxygen deficiency and sudden blood pressure drops.
  • Incorrect arm positioning, such as swinging both arms excessively to the sides while running, leads to trunk misalignment and affects breathing. This not only causes discomfort and reduces running efficiency but also strains the shoulder and chest muscles, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Taking a shower immediately after running, when the body is still perspiring heavily, can result in dizziness, headaches, and strokes due to sudden changes in body temperature.
The group at risk of stroke is relatively broad.

The group at risk of stroke is relatively broad.

Signs of recognition

Stroke, also known as cerebrovascular accident, occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked. At this point, the brain experiences oxygen and nutrient deprivation, leading to the death of brain cells within minutes. Stroke patients can die shortly after if not promptly and properly treated.

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After running, if you experience the following symptoms, it is highly possible that you have experienced a stroke:

  • Sudden numbness/weakness in one side of the body, including the arm, leg, or face.
  • Difficulty or inability to grip objects, with stiffness in the arms or legs.
  • Dizziness, nausea.
  • Pale face, blurred vision, seeing stars, dizziness, loss of balance, or inability to control movements.
  • Inability to speak or attempting to speak but with slurred speech, facial drooping, or meaningless words.
  • Sudden loss of vision in one eye, severe headache.

However, these are only the most typical symptoms seen in stroke patients after engaging in sports activities, such as running. Each person’s body may exhibit different signs, and not everyone will experience all the mentioned symptoms.

Target individuals prone to stroke while running

Statistics from the WHO indicate that the mortality rate due to stroke surpasses that of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Consequently, many individuals, in an effort to improve their health and prevent strokes, have chosen running or other light sports activities. However, there is a growing trend of stroke incidents occurring during running, causing concerns among many.

Nevertheless, if you are a generally healthy individual and accustomed to exercising, there is no need to overly worry. Stroke incidents during running typically occur among the following groups:

  • Patients with a history of hypertension or cardiovascular issues.
  • Individuals with a history of stroke, atherosclerosis, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
  • Sedentary individuals.
  • Individuals who consume alcohol, smoke, or use certain stimulants.
  • Those who engage in high-intensity running in the early morning, carrying the risk of cerebral hemorrhage and stroke.

How to respond to a stroke after running?

If you discover someone experiencing a stroke during exercise or running, it is crucial to immediately call for emergency assistance to ensure they receive treatment during the critical “golden hour.” While waiting for medical personnel to arrive, it is important to provide first aid to the patient and follow the correct techniques to avoid any risks that may worsen the condition.

  • Lay the patient down on a bed or surface with their head and back inclined at a 45-degree angle to the body. This position is especially helpful if the patient is nauseous or experiencing a decreased level of consciousness.
  • Loosen the patient’s clothing, paying particular attention to the neck area.
  • Clear the patient’s mouth of any mucus or phlegm by gently swabbing it with a cloth wrapped around the index finger.
  • If the patient experiences seizures, use a soft cloth to wrap around a wooden spoon or similar object and place it horizontally across the mouth to prevent tongue biting.
  • Take note of all the symptoms the patient is exhibiting and the time they appeared, and communicate this information to the medical personnel.
  • In the event of the patient’s breathing cessation, perform chest compressions (CPR).
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Note: ABSOLUTELY AVOID using acupuncture or cupping methods. These methods may worsen the patient’s condition.

Properly administering first aid to stroke patients is crucially important.

Properly administering first aid to stroke patients is crucially important.

Preventing strokes while running

Stroke and cardiac arrest during running are extremely dangerous. Therefore, when engaging in training, it is important for each individual to proactively learn proper running techniques, choose an appropriate distance based on their fitness level, and avoid overexertion.

To prevent strokes while participating in this sport, consider the following aspects:

  • Drink at least 2 liters of water per day to ensure proper hydration and prevent dehydration while running.
  • Regularly consume a warm glass of water before going to bed to reduce water loss in the morning. Warm water also reduces blood viscosity, significantly improving the pressure on the heart.
  • Maintain a suitable exercise intensity according to your physical condition.
  • Monitor heart rate and blood pressure to prevent strokes. If possible, consider hiring a personal trainer to closely monitor your training progress and provide detailed guidance on exercises suitable for your fitness level.
  • If you experience any unusual symptoms after running, take at least 3 days of rest.
  • Additionally, pay attention to adjusting your lifestyle and nutrition to maintain a balanced state of health and physical well-being.

Stroke incidents during running are common and always carry risks to health. Therefore, it is important for each individual to proactively monitor their physical fitness, avoid excessive training, and maintain a balanced and sensible diet.

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