Stroke stands as the fourth leading cause of death in United States whereas a number one cause of long-term disability all over the globe. Therefore, it’s of prime importance that you know all the stroke warning signs, causes and prevention and its treatment.
When a person suffers from stroke and fortunately survives it, he/she has to live a life of disability. There are more than 10 million people all over the globe who have survived stroke and more than 6.5 million people in U.S. alone who have survived the stroke. Nevertheless, surviving a stroke is a big deal as the death rate from stroke is pretty high.
Hence whether you’re a stroke survivor or you have a family history of stroke, we want to help you get all the details about stroke and understand what are the possible warning signs of stroke and how can we prevent it.
So What Is Stroke?
Just like a heart attack, stroke is a ‘brain attack.’ It’s a medical emergency that happens abruptly most of the time. It occurs when the normal blood flow to our brain is interrupted or reduced. This results in the shortage of oxygen and enough nutrients required by the brain to function normally. Eventually, the brain cells starts to die. When the cells die, the abilities controlled by the area of the brain such as muscle control or memory are lost. The interruption of the blood flow occurs either
- due to lack of blood flow(ischemic stroke) or
- due to bleeding within the brain (hemorrhagic stroke)
Its categorized as a medical emergency because once the symptoms occurs, there’s only about 3 to 4 hours window period to restore the blood supply to the brain using drugs like thrombolytics( clot-busting drugs).
Now you know how serious condition stroke is, let’s first find out what are the warning signs and symptoms of stroke.
You might also want to read Brain Fog: What Are Its Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Warning Signs Of Stroke
Sometimes there are no such warning signs and symptoms of stroke, which makes us quite difficult to adopt preventive measures of stroke. However some of the risk factors of stroke includes:
- High Blood Pressure
- Transient Ischemic attack (TIA) which cures itself but it should not be ignored as they can open doors for potential stroke episodes. Hence, if you suffer some symptoms such as numbness or facial droop or speech difficulties for few minutes, see your doctor immediately.
- Temporary loss of vision in one eye
- Dizziness or confusion
- Problems with balance and coordination
Once stroke hits you, there are some peculiar signs and symptoms of stroke that you need to take into consideration as symptoms greatly affects your treatment options. Some of the common signs and symptoms of stroke includes:
- Partial loss of vision
- Trouble with speech and understanding: You experience confusion and have slurry speech
- Hemiplegia: You may experience loss of muscle movement (paralysis) on one side of the body
- Headache: Sudden, severe headache and nausea.
- Dizziness and altered consciousness
- Trouble with coordination and movement
- Double vision
Predisposing factors or Risk Factors of Stroke
Many doctors and health experts have considered stroke as a ‘silent killer’ because it happens without much of warning signs and once it happens, it is bound to either kill you or make you disabled for the rest of your life. Hence, finding out the risk factors is one of the first steps you can take to prevent stroke in the future. Some of the risk factors that predispose a person to stroke include:
- High Blood Cholesterol
- Smoking and Drinking
- Carotid Artery Disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Genetic disorders
- Physical inactivity
- Unhealthy diet
- Family history of stroke or heart attack
- Age (55 or older)
- Sex (men have higher risk of stroke than women)
- Use of excessive birth control pills or hormone therapies
Causes of Stoke
Generally, there are two major causes of stroke, i.e. due to a blocked artery(ischemic stroke) or due to the bursting of blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Nearly, about 80 percent of the strokes are ischemic stroke.
Ischemic strokes can be classified as:
- Thrombotic Stroke– which occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) form in one of the arteries that supplies blood to your brain. This build up in the arteries reduces the blood flow (atherosclerosis) in the brain resulting in stroke.
- Embolic Stroke– which occurs when a blood clot or other debris is formed in your heart and is swept away from heart to the brain through blood stream. The blood clot is termed as embolus.
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures. Brain hemorrhages can result from many conditions that affect your blood vessels. These include:
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Overtreatment with anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- Weak spots in your blood vessel walls (aneurysms)
Treatment Of Stroke
The most effective treatment of stroke is “prevention.” Although it’s been said that stroke cannot be prevented but experts have proved that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. There are nearly 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S. alone. However, if one suffers from stroke, there are treatment methods available to intervene and restore the blood supply to the brain. And as said earlier, the treatment depends upon on the type of stroke that has been diagnosed. A CT scan of the head should be done immediately to help distinguish an ischemic from a hemorrhagic stroke.
If the diagnosis is ischemic stroke, there is a window of time to perform thrombolytic therapy via tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). How does this work? Well, tPA work by dissolving the clot that is blocking the artery in the brain and help restore the blood supply. Hemorrhagic strokes, however, are difficult to treat because it’s caused due to rupture of artery that supplies blood to the brain. A neurosurgeon should be consulted immediately for surgery like hematoma evacuation, aneurysm clipping and so on.
Prevention of Stroke
Many stroke prevention strategies are the same as strategies to prevent heart disease. In general, healthy lifestyle recommendations include:
- Maintaining the blood pressure/ controlling high blood pressure
- Quitting smoking and drinking
- Eating healthy balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Preventing diabetes
- Maintaining healthy weight
- Regular exercise to burn fat
- Avoid drugs
- Avoid over use of birth control pills