A stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. It occurs when blood supply to one part of the brain reduces or is interrupted. This results in oxygen and nutrients not getting to the brain tissue. When that happens, the brain tissue and cells begin to die. Usually, this happens within minutes. That part of the body controlled by that part of the brain then begins to fail. If a stroke is not addressed immediately, it can lead to permanent disability and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is among the top leading causes of premature deaths in the U.S. Almost 800,000 people will suffer from stroke every year. This translates to one person every 40 seconds. Strokes are either ischemic or hemorrhagic and can affect anyone. Some people are, however, at more risk than others. Knowing the symptoms of stroke beforehand can help save your life or that of someone else.
Types of Stroke
A stroke can either be due to a blocked artery or a bleed in the brain. There are two main types of strokes.
This is the most common type of stroke with 8 in every 10 strokes cases being ischemic. Ischemic strokes occur when the blood vessels in the brain narrow or become blocked. This happens when fatty deposits build up in the vessels. It can also happen when debris and blood clots lodge themselves in the vessels. Treatments for ischemic strokes focus on restoring blood flow to the brain.
Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel or artery in the brain ruptures or leaks blood. The blood puts pressure on the brain tissue and cells damaging them in the process. You are at risk of a hemorrhagic stroke if you;
- Are being over treated with blood thinners
- Have untreated high blood pressure
- Have aneurysms in the walls of blood vessels
- Have suffered from trauma as a result of an accident
- Have had an ischemic stroke that has resulted in a brain bleed
You can either have intracerebral hemorrhage or subarachnoid hemorrhage. Intracerebral hemorrhage is more common. It occurs when an artery bursts flooding the brain with blood. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is rare. It occurs when there is bleeding between the brain and the tissues that cover it.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Referred to as a mini-stroke, a transient ischemic attack is different from an ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke. A mini-stroke manifests like other strokes. Blood supply to the brain is, however, only blocked for less than five minutes. A TIA doesn’t result in any permanent damage. It is however still as serious and requires emergency medical care. A TIA is also a warning sign of a major stroke in the future. According to the American Stroke Association, more than a third of those who’ve suffered a TIA suffer a major stroke within a year. 15% of them suffer a major stroke within three months. Seeking treatment can lower your risk of suffering a major stroke.
Symptoms of Stroke
If you suspect that you or someone else may be having a stroke, note when the symptoms begin. This is because some treatment options work when administered fast. Some of the common symptoms of stroke include;
- Confusion, slurring of words, and difficulties comprehending what someone else is saying
- A sudden weakness, numbness, or paralysis in the arm, leg, and face
- Sight problems like a blackened or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- A sudden and severe headache accompanied by dizziness or vomiting
- Loss of balance due to lost coordination
Diagnosis of Stroke
If you have had symptoms of stroke, the doctor may order several tests. They include;
Blood tests: The doctor draws some blood to test for infections. They also assess the blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, platelets count, and blood clotting rate.
CT and MRI scan: CT and MRI scans diagnose any brain damage or bleeding.
EKT Test: This is a simple test used to record the electrical activity in the heart. An electrocardiogram test measures the heart rhythm and records how fast it’s beating.
Cerebral angiogram: This test provides a detailed picture of the brain and neck arteries. It can show any clots or blockages that may have resulted in the stroke symptoms.
Carotid ultrasound: This scans for fatty deposits in the arteries that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face.
Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram determines the source of blood clots deposited in the brain.
How to Treat Stroke
The treatments vary depending on the type of stroke. They include medication, rehabilitation, and surgery.
Acute treatment stops a stroke when it’s happening. Post-stroke rehabilitation aims at restoring functioning lost due to a stroke. Preventive treatments prevent strokes from happening again.
- Acute treatment targets ischemic strokes and TIAs and involves taking medications.
- Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) helps dissolve blood clots. It works well when given within four hours of getting a stroke.
- If it has been more than four hours, blood thinners or medicine that prevents blood clotting will do.
- If the stroke results from carotid artery disease, opening the blocked artery is the best option.
- Treatment options for hemorrhagic strokes aim to stop the bleeding.
- If the brain bleed is due to high blood pressure, blood pressure medicines are administered.
- If an aneurysm is causing the bleeding, coil embolization of aneurysm clipping helps.
- If the stroke is due to an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), AVM repair is done. This is through radiation to shrink the vessels or an injection to block the flow of blood.
How to Manage Stroke
The management of stroke involves taking measures to ensure that a stroke doesn’t occur. They include things like;
- Keeping your blood pressure in control
- Lowering your cholesterol levels and eliminating saturated fats from your diet
- Quitting smoking
- Managing your diabetes through proper diet and exercising to lose weight
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits
- Reducing your alcohol intake
- Seeking treatment for obstructive sleep apnea since this can result in breathing difficulties
- Can you ever return to normal after a stroke? This will depend on the severity of the stroke and how soon treatment starts. A minor stroke causes only slight impairments but a major stroke can leave one in a vegetative state.
- What should I do if I suspect that someone is having a stroke? If you think someone is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. The faster treatment starts the higher the chances of recovery.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!