I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the word stroke.
But what comes to your mind anytime you hear the word? Paralysis? Disability? Death?
If you thought any of these, you’re very correct. Stroke is a deadly disease and it a leading cause of death worldwide.
If we were to discuss stroke and everything about it, this post would be super lengthy.
So, to avoid taking so much of your time, we’ll keep this brief, straight to the point and in easy bits, so that you can learn the most important things for now.
So, what is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when there is a disruption of the blood supply to the brain, which can lead to the death of brain cells and permanent brain damage or death if severe or untreated.
They are often called “brain attacks” or medically known as a cerebrovascular accident, and I’ll explain why. Cerebro- is gotten from ‘cerebrum’ which is the larger part of the brain that has two hemispheres, and vascular refers to blood vessels. In all strokes, there is a huge role played by the brain’s blood vessels.
What causes stroke?
We already established that strokes happen when there is a reduced blood supply to the brain tissue, but how does this happen. Well, there are two ways it happens. It can be classified into two types:
A haemorrhagic stroke happens when there is a leakage of blood from a blood vessel in the brain, it can happen when the wall of the blood vessel is weak (as seen in aneurysms) or many times from a sudden blood vessel rupture from uncontrolled high blood pressure. This bleeding exerts a lot of pressure on the brain tissue, resulting in its damage and stroke.
An ischaemic stroke happens when a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain tissue is blocked, most times by blood clots, which is the most common type.
Sometimes, people can have a ‘mini-stroke’, where the blood vessel becomes temporarily blocked by blood clots but resolves in a few minutes. It is medically called a Transient Ischaemic Attack or TIA.
People that have a TIA usually suffer stroke symptoms for a few minutes and usually completely recover. However, people that have suffered these mini-strokes have to take their condition seriously as the main stroke can be imminent.
What makes a person more likely to develop a stroke?
Some things have been noticed to increase the likelihood of a person having a stroke. We call them risk factors, and some of them are:
1. High blood pressure
2. High cholesterol levels
3. Family history
4. Excessive alcohol consumption
5. Cigarette smoking
6. Sickle cell anaemia
7. Increased age (the risk rises as you grow older)
8. A previous stroke or TIA
All these factors can contribute to the chances that a person will have a stroke. For example, if a person has been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), and is not on treatment, the blood pressure could spike high enough to rupture a blood vessel in the brain and cause a stroke.
Tip: If you aren’t hypertensive, you should check your blood pressure from time to time because hypertension often has no symptoms. Blood pressure is checked using a blood pressure monitor or a manual sphygmomanometer and an analog or electronic stethoscope.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms could vary, but common ones are:
2. Muscle weakness
3. Slurred speech
4. Deviation of the face
6. Severe headache
7. Loss of balance
How is it treated?
When a person has a stroke, the person is usually admitted in a hospital for a prolonged period during which a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary.
Medications are given to dissolve blood clots, decrease swelling, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure as indicated.
Also, some special procedures may be carried out to attempt to manually remove blood clots that block the flow of blood to the brain tissue.
Occasionally, surgery may be necessary.
During the recovery process, a lot of rehabilitation is needed. From speech therapy to muscle strengthening to other physical therapy. They often need assistance in the form of walkers, wheelchairs and if nursed at home, chair lifts for stairs. Gradually, the person’s symptoms could improve, and the person could go on to make a full recovery.
How to prevent a stroke
Knowing how to prevent a stroke is very important. Here are some tips for you:
1. Check your blood pressure routinely
2. Do routine blood tests to assess your blood sugar and cholesterol levels
3. If you’re hypertensive or diabetic, be compliant with your medications
4. Eat healthy meals
5. Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
6. Be physically active
7. Don’t consume excessive alcohol
8. Quit smoking
You’re sure going to put stroke at bay if you consciously practice these daily lifestyle habits.
This guest post was written by Dr. Charles-Davies of 25 Doctors.