A stroke occurs when there is a poor blood flow to the brain resulting in the death of brain cells. There are two main types of stroke: ischemic- caused due to lack of blood flow, and hemorrhagic- caused due to bleeding into the brain.
Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke which is caused by blockage of blood vessel to the brain which prevents proper supply of blood to the brain. Ischemic Stroke is responsible for about 80 percent of strokes.
Bleeding into the brain or the spaces surrounding the brain causes the second type of stroke, called Hemorrhagic stroke.
However, two key steps can lower the risk of death or disability from stroke- Controlling stroke’s risk factors and Knowing the warning signs & symptoms of stroke.
Stroke needs to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible in order to reduce brain damage.
What are the common signs and symptoms of Stroke?
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion- trouble talking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble in walking
- Loss of balance
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Apart from the above symptoms, remembering the F.A.S.T acronym can help recognizing the onset of Stroke-
F– Face drooping: Does face look uneven?
A– Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak? Can the person lift both the arms?
S– Speech Difficulty: Listen for slurred speech.
T– Time to call Emergency!
Sometimes the warning signs may last only a few moments and then disappear. If symptoms last less than one or two hours it is known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or commonly known as Mini-Stroke.
What are the risk factors of Stroke?
Anyone is at risk of developing a stroke although ageing is directly proportional to the risk of having a stroke. Having a risk factor for stroke does not always indicate a person will have a stroke. On the other hand, not having a risk factor does not mean the person will avoid a stroke. But as the number & severity of risk factor increases the risk of stroke increases simultaneously.
The main risk factor of stroke is High Blood Pressure; Tobacco Smoking, Obesity, High Blood Cholesterol, a previous evidence of TIA, Atrial Fibrillation among others.
However, there are some other factors that trigger stroke such as-
Age: Strokes occur in all age groups. Age makes people more susceptible to having a stroke.
Family History of Stroke: Stroke seems to run in some families. Members of a family might have a genetic tendency for stroke risk factors- high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes.
How to Prevent Stroke?
Stroke prevention starts from you; by protecting yourself and managing the key risk factors.
Below are some ways by which you can start preventing your risk of developing stroke-
Lower Blood pressure: High blood pressure is the man factor doubling the risk of developing stroke if not controlled. Also reducing the salt intake and avoiding high-cholesterol food such as burgers & cheese can lower high blood pressure.
Lose Weight: Obesity, being another risk factor of stroke increases the chances of having a stroke. Exercising regularly aids to weight loss and lowers blood pressure.
Treat Diabetes: Having higher blood glucose level can cause destructive changes in the blood vessels throughout the body including the brain. Keeping blood sugar under control can delay the onset of complications that increase the risk of stroke.
Quit Smoking: Nicotine present in Cigarette raises blood pressure; carbon monoxide from smoking reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry to the brain, and cigarette smoke makes your blood thicker and more likely to clot. Stop smoking today and ask Doctor for advice on the most appropriate way to quit smoking.
Treat Atrial Fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. Those clots can then travel to the brain and produce a stroke. It is advisable to see a Doctor if you have symptoms like palpitation or shortness of breath.
Too many people ignore the signs of stroke because they are unsure whether the symptoms are real. It could be life-threatening to ignore if one spots the signs and symptoms of stroke in themselves or others. By starting early and controlling the risk factors, stroke can be prevented before it has a chance to strike and as it is well said- “Prevention is better than cure.”