Fidel Castro is rumored to have suffered an embolic stroke, according to news reports.
Doctor Jose Marquina, who supposedly has firsthand knowledge of the 86-year-old former Cuban leader's health condition, told El Nuevo Herald that Castro is "very close to a neurovegetative state."
However, the Associated Press reported that Marquina has made claims that never came to fruition in the past, and that Marquina would not identify his sources of knowledge regarding Castro's condition.
The AP also reported that Castro's family members have denied that he is gravely ill.
If Marquina's reports are indeed true, though, an embolic stroke would leave Castro with problems performing basic functions like eating, the New York Daily News reported.
An embolic stroke is a type of ischemic stroke (an ischemic stroke is caused by blockages or narrowing of brain arteries, and comprises about 80 percent of all strokes). Embolic stroke is caused when a clot called an embolus that comes from another part of the body gets lodged in the brain's arteries, the National Stroke Association reported. The clot often comes from the heart.
Common symptoms of a stroke include extreme headache, problems with balance and coordination, vision problems, feeling confused and sudden weakness/numbness, according to the University of Washington Medicine website.
Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle, being obese, smoking and drinking too much alcohol can all raise the risk of stroke. Other nonchangeable risk factors include being a man, being over the age of 55, having a family history and being African American, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Recovery after a stroke differs from person to person, University of Washington Medicine reported, with younger people having better recovery than older people.
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A Swedish study in the journal <em>Neurology</em> showed that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/chocolate-stroke-risk-men_n_1841314.html">eating chocolate</a> is linked with a lower risk of stroke in men. The study, which included 37,103 men, showed that men who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/chocolate-stroke-risk-men_n_1841314.html">ate the most chocolate</a> in the 10-year study had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke, compared with those who didn't report eating any chocolate during that time period.
Eating lots of whole grains could help to <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11000647">lower risk of ischemic stroke for women</a>, according to a study in the <em>Journal of the American Medical Association</em>. The findings showed that women who ate the <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=117936&page=1#.UHL5F_mfGPJ">most whole grains</a> in the study (like the amount you'd get by eating two or three whole grain bread slices every day) had a 30 to 40 percent lower stroke risk, compared with women who ate the fewest whole grains in the study (like the amount you'd get by eating just a half-slice of whole grain bread every day), according to ABC News.
An <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/26/citrus-stroke-risk-antioxidant-flavonoid_n_1299753.html">antioxidant found in citrus fruits</a> could help to lower risk of stroke in women, according to a study of 70,000 women earlier this year in the journal <em>Stroke</em>. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital found that women who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/26/citrus-stroke-risk-antioxidant-flavonoid_n_1299753.html">consumed the most flavonoids</a> over a 14-year period had a 19 percent lower risk of stroke than the women who consumed the fewest flavonoids during that time period.
While antioxidants aren't exactly a food on their own, fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are rich in them are linked with a lower stroke risk for women. Research published in the journal <em>Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association</em> showed that women with no heart disease history who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/03/antioxidants-stroke-risk-diet-food-vegetables-fruits_n_1124102.html">consumed the most antioxidants</a> from food had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke, and women <em>with</em> a heart disease history who consumed the most antioxidants from food had a <em>57</em> percent decreased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. The researchers, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, speculated that the protection comes from <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/03/antioxidants-stroke-risk-diet-food-vegetables-fruits_n_1124102.html">antioxidants' ability to stop inflammation </a>and oxidative stress in the body by neutralizing harmful free radicals. Antioxidants can also help to reduce blood clots and lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation, <a href="http://newsroom.heart.org/pr/aha/vegetables-fruits-grains-reduce-219833.aspx">according to the American Heart Association</a>.
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Foods <a href="http://www.webmd.com/stroke/news/20120119/magnesium-rich-foods-may-lower-stroke-risk">loaded with magnesium</a> -- like beans, nuts leafy greens and whole grains -- are linked with a lower risk of ischemic stroke, WebMD Reported. The findings, published in the <em>American Journal of Clinical Nutrition</em>, showed specifically that for each 100 milligrams of magnesium consumed each day, ischemic stroke risk went down by 9 percent.
Making sure to <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/26/us-fish-stroke-idUSTRE78P07V20110926">eat some fish</a> every week could help to lower risk of stroke, according to a review of studies published in the journal <em>Stroke</em>. Reuters reported on the study, which showed that eating fish several times a week was linked with a lower risk of stroke, compared with non-fish eaters. "I think overall, fish does provide a beneficial package of nutrients, in <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/26/us-fish-stroke-idUSTRE78P07V20110926">particular the omega-3s</a>, that could explain this lower risk," Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, whose research was part of the <em>Stroke</em> analysis, told Reuters.
Learn About Stroke Risks
Learn the different symptoms of stroke, and what happens inside the body when you suffer a stroke.