A stroke occurs when there’s a reduction or blockage of blood supply to the brain. It can also result from the rupture of a blood vessel within the brain. This blockage or rupture prevents the supply of oxygen to the brain tissues. Consequently, the brain cells begin to die within minutes.
Sustained periods of stroke can be fatal. That’s why stroke is considered to be a medical emergency. If you’re with anyone experiencing a stroke, call 911 to seek prompt medical attention. In this article, we explore all you need to know about stroke.
What is Stroke?
As noted earlier, a stroke occurs when blockage or blood vessel rupture hinders the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain cells. According to CDC, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing about 795,000 people yearly.
Once the supply of blood to the brain is interrupted, brain tissue damage kicks in. Notable symptoms become visible in areas controlled by the damaged region of the brain. Some of the common symptoms of stroke include:
- Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Slurring speech
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one half of the body.
- Trouble walking
- Loss of balance and coordination.
Once stroke kicks in, the sooner the person gets medical attention, the better their chance of recovery. Every second count! Failure to act promptly can result in:
- Brain damage
- Long-term disability
Call 911 if you notice someone exhibiting symptoms of stroke!
Types of Stroke
Strokes can be classified into three main categories:
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Ischemic stroke
- Hemorrhagic stroke.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
Sometimes, the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted by a blood clot. This results in a mini-stroke, technically called transient ischemic attack. While TIA exhibits symptoms of a full stroke, these symptoms typically disappear within a few minutes to hours.
More often than not, a full stroke is usually preceded by TIA. Unfortunately, statistics by the CDC show that more than one-third of people who experience TIA and fail to receive medical attention end up having a full stroke within a year.
Ischemic stroke is caused by the narrowing or blocking of arteries that take blood to the brain. While this blockage is primarily caused by a blood clot, it can also be caused by atherosclerosis breaking off and blocking the blood vessel.
There are two main types of ischemic stroke: embolic and thrombotic stroke. In a thrombotic stroke, a blood clot forms right in the arteries supplying the brain with blood. On the other hand, in an embolic stroke, the clot is produced elsewhere in the body and transported to the brain. According to the CDC, ischemic strokes make up about 87 percent of strokes.
This occurs when an artery in the brain gets cut and leaks blood. As blood escapes from the artery, it increases the pressure within that localized region of the skull. This causes the brain to swell, which eventually damages brain cells and tissues.
Hemorrhagic strokes are broadly classified into two: intracerebral and subarachnoid. In intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke, blood directly fills the tissues surrounding the brain when the artery breaks open. In subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke, blood simply fills the space between the brain and the tissues covering it. An intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke makes up the vast majority of hemorrhagic strokes.
Causes and Risk factors
Different types of strokes have different potential causes. However, certain risk factors significantly increase your risk of having one. Some of which include:
- Unhealthy diets including foods high in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
- An extended period of inactivity
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Personal background like family history, sex, age, and ethnicity.
- Prior medical conditions linked to stroke, like high blood pressure, a previous stroke or TIA, high cholesterol, sickle cell disease, diabetes, and heart disorders.
Because a stroke can cause rapid deterioration, immediate medical attention – preferably within three hours of observing symptoms – is needed to obtain the best outcome. Some of the major methods of diagnosing stroke include:
- Physical examination
Physical examination is carried out to observe muscle strength, reflexes, vision, sensation, and coordination. Similarly, the doctor may check your blood pressure, examine the blood vessels at the back of your eyes or listen to the carotid arteries.
Several tests can be carried out to determine if you’ve had a stroke. Some of which include:
Blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, cerebral angiogram, carotid ultrasonic and echocardiogram
Stroke treatment is highly dependent on the type of stroke you experience. Here are some common treatments based on the types of strokes:
Ischemic stroke and TIA
- Antiplatelet and anticoagulants
- Clot-breaking drugs
- Mechanical thrombectomy
- Medications to make your blood clot
- Coiling to restrict excessive blood flow
- Clamping to prevent additional bleeding
A stroke is a serious medication that requires immediate medical attention. Incorporating certain lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your chances of having a stroke. Some things to bear in mind include:
- Quit alcohol and smoking
- Watch your weight
- Eat healthy diets, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes
- Exercise regularly
- Undergo regular medical checkups for sugar and blood pressure levels.
Contact us today for more information.