What is a Stroke?
Stroke is a syndrome. It is a serious life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off or interrupted. When a stroke happens, the brain does not get enough oxygen or nutrients, and as a result, the brain cells start to die. Globally, stroke is the second leading cause of death according to the American Heart Association Statistics Committee Report, 2014.
Symptoms of Stroke
The main symptoms of stroke can be abbreviated as F.A.S.T. Let us elaborate on the symptoms:
- Face: The face may drop on one side, the person is unable to smile or their mouth or eye might also drop.
- Arms: The person who is at risk of stroke might not be able to lift both their arms and keep them there for a while because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech: the person at risk of stroke might have slurred or garbled speech or difficulty in talking despite appearing to be awake. Confusion and difficulty in understanding also a symptom of stroke.
- Time: If you observe any of the above symptoms immediately contact emergency services.
Stroke can result in long term health problems. How stroke happens or how stroke occurs depends on how quickly it is diagnosed and treated, however, an individual can experience temporary or permanent disabilities as the outcome of a stroke. Other symptoms of the stroke that a person might experience are:
- Bladder or bowel control problems.
- Hand and feet pain which gets worse with movement and temperature changes.
- A person might feel weakened or might suffer from paralysis on one or both sides of the body.
- Trouble in controlling or expressing emotions.
Types of Stroke
The three main types of stroke are:
The most common type of stroke. The blood and oxygen supply is interrupted to reach the brain by a blood clot.
This type of stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and usually it occurs as a result of aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).
Transient ischemic attacks (TIA)
This type is also referred to as a mini-stroke. This occurs after the blood flow fails to reach the part of the brain. Although normal blood flow resumes after a short while and symptoms cease.
Causes of Stroke
Brain stroke causes are different as per the types of strokes. The leading causes of stroke might occur when people have the following risk factors:
- Are above 55 years of age
- Have a family history of stroke
- Inactive and sedentary lifestyle
- Heavy alcohol consumption, smoking or use of illicit drugs.
Ischemic stroke: the main causes of stroke is when there are blockages or narrowing down of the arteries which are responsible to provide blood to the brain and thus results in ischemia. This condition is severely reduced blood flow which damages the brain cells. What causes a stroke or ischemic stroke? This is usually caused by blood clots that are formed in the brain arteries. These might also occur in blood vessels in the body and then they can be swept through the bloodstream and later into narrower arteries in the brain. The clots are caused when there is fatty deposition within the arteries and these result in ischemia.
Hemorrhagic stroke: The causes of hemorrhagic stroke is due to leakage or bursting of the arteries present in the brain. The blood that is leaked puts pressure on the brain cells and damages them. The blood supply is also reduced that can reach the brain tissue after the hemorrhage. Due to bursting the blood can be spilled into the brain or near the brain surface and it might reach the space between the brain and skull. Stroke causes and symptoms of the rupture might occur due to hypertension, trauma, blood thinning medications, and aneurysms (weaknesses in the walls of blood vessels). The most common type of hemorrhagic stroke is intracerebral hemorrhage and it occurs when brain tissue becomes flooded with blood after the burst of the artery in the brain. Another type of hemorrhagic stroke is subarachnoid hemorrhage is less common wherein bleeding occurs in the area between the brain and thin tissues that cover it.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA): This type is different from the above two types, where the blood flow is briefly interrupted. Being similar to ischemic strokes, TIA is often caused by blood clots or other clots. The TIA serves as warning signs for future strokes and indicates that the arteries are partially blocked.
Prevention of Stroke
Stroke prevention is better understood when the underlying causes are addressed. The major question asked is how to prevent a stroke and the best way is through lifestyle changes and creating stroke awareness along with following changes:
- Consuming a healthy diet
- Maintain healthy weight
- Regular exercise
- Avoid smoking and consumption of tobacco
- Avoid alcohol or moderate drinking
Thus the recommended stroke prevention diet includes eating a nutritious diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. You should be careful and avoid or reduce eating of red or processed meat as well as limit the intake of cholesterol and saturated fats. In order to maintain healthy blood pressure minimize the salt intake.
Other measures that can be taken to help reduce the risk of stroke are:
- Control your blood pressure through regular monitoring
- Manage your diabetes
- Treat obstructive sleep apnea.
Treatment of Stroke
Stroke treatment is different for both ischemic as well as hemorrhagic strokes as the causes are also different.
Ischemic stroke: the treatment will focus on restoring the adequate flow of blood to the brain. Thus the question arises of how to treat a stroke? The treatment will start with drugs which will break down the clots and prevent new clot formation. There are different procedures through which this can be done such as injecting tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), carotid endarterectomy, or angioplasty.
Hemorrhagic stroke: the treatment focuses on controlling the bleeding and reduce the pressure on the brain. The drugs can be administered to reduce the brain pressure, control overall blood pressure, prevent seizures, and prevent sudden constrictions of blood vessels.
A stroke can be a scary and life-altering experience. Thus, you should reduce the existing risk factors that can be changed and minimize the chances of occurring of this syndrome in your life and also your family.
Stay Fir, Healthy, and Happy!!!