A stroke also called a brain stroke or transient ischemic attack, is a sudden loss of brain function due to a blockage or bleeds in the brain.
One in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime. That’s a pretty scary statistic, but it’s one that we can do something about. By knowing the signs of a stroke and getting treatment quickly, we can reduce the number of fatalities caused by strokes. In this blog post, we will discuss what a stroke is, how to spot the signs, and what you can do to survive if you or someone you know has a stroke.
What is a stroke?
A stroke also called a brain stroke or transient ischemic attack or cerebrovascular accident, is a sudden loss of brain function due to a blockage or bleeds in the brain. The blood supply to the brain is blocked and also prevents the brain from obtaining enough oxygen and nutrients from circulation. This can happen when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, oxygen can’t get to the brain and brain cells begin to die.
A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Early intervention can help prevent brain damage and other problems.
Types of stroke
The types of stroke are:
It is the most common, accounting for 87% of all strokes. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel is blocked, usually by a blood clot. Blood vessel walls that have been blocked or constricted are caused by fatty deposits that accumulate in blood vessels or by blood clots or other debris traveling through the circulation, most commonly from the heart, which lodges in brain blood vessels.
It is less common, accounting for 13% of all strokes. It happens when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Factors related to hemorrhagic stroke include:
- High blood pressure: This is the most important factor that can be controlled.
- Cerebral aneurysms: These are weakened areas in the brain’s blood vessels that can rupture and bleed.
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants) are overused in certain treatments.
- Arteriovenous malformations: These are abnormal tangles of arteries and veins in the brain that can rupture and bleed.
- Car accidents.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
A TIA is a warning sign that a stroke may happen in the future. It’s often called a mini-stroke, but it’s a major warning sign. A TIA is caused by a brief blockage of blood flow to the brain, usually from a clot. The symptoms are the same as a stroke, but they last for only a short time and don’t cause permanent damage.
TIAs should be taken very seriously because they often precede a full-blown stroke. About one-third of people who have a TIA will go on to have a stroke within a year.
TIAs are medical emergencies, and you should call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately if you think you or someone else is having one.
How to spot the signs of a stroke?
If you think someone may be having a stroke, it is important to act F.A.S.T.:
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
- Time: If you see any of these signs, it’s time to call 911.
What causes a stroke?
A blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke) are the two main causes of stroke. Some individuals may only have a brief interruption in blood flow to the brain, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), without developing any long-term symptoms.
Other stroke risk factors can contribute to a person having a stroke. Some of these include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of stroke
- Age (55 or older)
- Physically inactive
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
Stroke symptoms can come on suddenly and may include:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion or trouble speaking
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking
- Loss of balance or coordination
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
How is a stroke diagnosed?
A physical exam, medical history, and laboratory tests will be done to diagnose a stroke.
Imaging tests of the brain may be ordered to check for bleeding, blockages, or changes in brain structure and help to see whether any brain tissue or brain cells have been damaged. These may include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cerebral angiography, or transcranial Doppler ultrasound.
How is a stroke treated?
The goal of treatment is to stop the stroke and prevent another one from happening.
If the stroke is caused by a blood clot, you may be given clot-busting drugs or have surgery to remove the clot.
If the stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain, you may need surgery to remove the blood and relieve pressure on your brain.
You will also need to take steps to prevent another stroke from happening. This may include taking drugs, making lifestyle changes, or having surgery.
What are the long-term effects of a stroke?
The effects of a stroke depend on how severe it is and what area of the brain is affected. Some people recover completely, but others may have long-term problems.
Long-term effects of a stroke may include:
- Paralysis or loss of muscle movement
- Loss of sensation
- Problems with thinking, memory, and communication
- Emotional problems
- Changes in behavior
How can I prevent a stroke?
You may be able to lower your risk of having a stroke by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol use
- Managing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
If you have already had a stroke, you can lower your risk of having another one by taking your medications as prescribed, making lifestyle changes, and attending rehabilitation appointments.
You can also join a support group for stroke survivors and their families to connect with others who understand what you are going through.