According to the WHO cardiovascular diseases globally cause the highest number of deaths. They consisted 31% of global deaths in 2012. Stroke and heart attacks are the most common cardiovascular diseases. About three-quarters of deaths related to cardiovascular diseases occur in low- and middle-income communities.
What is stroke
The easiest description of a stroke is “brain attack”. A stroke occurs when blood flow to parts of the brain is blocked or severely reduced. This results in lack of oxygen and nutrients in brain cells and they begin to die within minutes.
A stroke occurs suddenly. Symptoms may stay for a very short time and completely disappear after minutes. This is called TIA (Transient Ischemic Attacks) in medical terms and is caused by a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain. This kind of stroke is a warning sign that a bigger stroke may occur in the future, so see a doctor.
Major strokes present with paralysis, speech and sight disturbances or numbness.
Use the FAST guideline to look for signs of a stroke and seek help:
F = Face
- one-sided dropped lips or drooping when you smile
- inability to frown or whistle
- one-sided numbness in the face
- one-sided dropped eye lid
- trouble with seeing in one or both eyes: suddenly blurred images or blackened images or seeing double
- sudden severe headache esp. at the back of your head (feels like the worst headache of your life)
- Paralysis of an arm or leg, inability to raise arms or leg
- Weakness of an arm or leg
- stumbling, loss of balance or loss of coordination
S = Speech
- sudden difficulties in speaking like slurred words or difficulty understanding or repeating speech
T = Time: every minute counts. Seek help.
Causes of Stroke
There are two main causes of stroke: a blocked artery or a bleeding artery. Stroke caused by a blocked artery is called an ischemic stroke while one caused by bleeding is called a hemorrhagic stroke.
- Ischemic stroke: This consists 85% of all strokes. Blood vessels can be blocked either when a blood clot forms in an artery (thrombotic) or formed away from the brain and transported to the the brain (embolic). Embolic clots are commonly formed in the heart.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This occurs when blood vessels supplying the brain rupture or leak. This is usually caused by high blood pressure, over-treatment with blood thinners or if you were born with weak spots in your arteries called aneurysms. Bleeding into brain tissue is called intracerebal hemorrhage whereas bleeding into the space between your brain and your skull it is called subarachnoid hemorrhage.
The most important behavioural risk factors of stroke are
- unhealthy diet
- physical inactivity
- Heavy or binge drinking
The effects of behavioural risk factors may show up in individuals as raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and overweight and Obstructive sleep apnea. These are called “intermediate risks factors”.
Other factors associated with a higher risk of stroke include:
- Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack.
- Being age 55 or older.
- Gender — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women. Women are usually older when they have strokes, and they’re more likely to die of strokes than are men. Also, they may have some risk from some birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen, as well as from pregnancy and childbirth.
How to Prevent Stroke
- cease smoking
- reduce salt in your diet
- consume fruits and vegetables
- regular physical activity (sports)
- avoid harmful use of alcohol
- treat diabetes and high blood pressure
- cut down on weight
- cut down on cholesterol
- know your family history
Depending on how long the brain lacks blood flow and which part was affected the following complications may occur:
- Paralysis or loss of muscle movement of the face, arms or legs
- Difficulty talking or understanding speech
- Difficulty swallowing
- Memory loss or thinking difficulties
- Emotional problems. People who have had strokes may have more difficulty controlling their emotions, or they may develop depression. They may become more withdrawn and less social or more impulsive.
- Pain, numbness or other strange sensations (tingling) in parts of the bodies
Treatment and Recovery
A stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is crucial. The longer the shortage of blood supply to the brain,the greater the damage. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications. Ischemic strokes maybe treated with blood thinners like Aspirin, etc, but should be taken carefully – learn why. In some cases emergency surgery is needed. Hemorrhagic strokes are primarily treated by surgery, if indicated. Other medication is on the market like xarelto, but obviously im not a doctor, go check out sites like sideeffectsofxarelto.org before getting prescribed.
Caring for victims of stroke should focus on helping them regain strength and become functional and independent again. Treatment concepts include physiotherapy and speech therapy.