Stroke, a common occurrence in every part of the world is a medical emergency that must not be taken lightly. It is also known as cerebrovascular accident. It happens when the flow of blood (oxygen and nutrients) to the brain is interrupted or reduced either by rupture (bleeding) of blood vessels or blockage. This presents a problem as the tissues in the brain begin to die, ultimately leading to brain damage, disability or death if not given immediate attention. The sooner a stroke patient begins rehabilitation and care, the better the outcome.
It is helpful to know the signs and symptoms of stroke so that immediate response can be given. Here are some of them:
- Numbness in upper or lower limbs or face
- Slurred speech and difficulty in comprehension
- Severe headache
- Blurred, blackened or double vision
- Loss of balance and coordination
Types of Stroke
There are three major types of stroke; Ischemic stroke, TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), and Hemorrhagic stroke. The three types have different causes and therefore different treatment methods.
+ Ischemic Stroke
This is the most common type of stroke, caused by blockage or severe narrowing of blood vessels preventing or reducing the flow of blood to the brain. The blockage or narrowing is most times as a result of fat deposits, blood clots or debris (atherosclerosis) lodged in the blood vessels. If left untreated, atherosclerosis can lead to ischemic stroke.
+ Transient Ischemic Stroke (TIA)
As the name implies, TIA is a short-lived type of Ischemic stroke. It is the interruption or reduction of blood flow caused by a temporary blockage of the blood vessels. TIA if not given attention can lead to Ischemic stroke later, from about 3 months to a year after.
The symptoms of TIA are identical to full stroke and as such should be treated with the same measure of attention. The fact that the symptoms last for only a few minutes or hours does not mean that TIA should not be taken seriously. Prevention is always better and less expensive than cure.
+ Hemorrhagic Stroke
Gotten form the word hemorrhage which means to bleed, Hemorrhagic stroke is the type of stroke that happens as a result of a ruptured vessel or leakage of a burst artery that causes bleeding in the brain. When blood leaks into the brain it puts pressure on the brain tissues and cells, causing damage ultimately leading to stroke.
Risk Factors of Stroke
The risk factors can be classified into two major groups, the lifestyle risk factors and medical history risk factors.
Lifestyle risk factors of Stroke include
- Being overweight or obese as a result of unhealthy eating: foods high in salt, trans fat and bad cholesterol put one at a high risk of having stroke.
- Sedentary living or physical inactivity: lack of regular and consistent exercise contributes to the weakness of the heart and blood circulation system. Also, physical inactivity causes a low expenditure of energy especially when energy intake is very high.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: it causes a spike in blood pressure and increases triglyceride levels in the blood causing accumulation of plaques in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- Taking hard drugs like cocaine, tobacco etc.
Medical history risk factors include
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Cigarette smoking or passive smoking
- Family history of high blood pressure and/or stroke
- High cholesterol level
Other risk factors are
- Age: the older one gets the higher the likelihood of having stroke.
- Gender: men are more likely to have stroke than women but more women die from stroke than men.
Complications of Stroke
- Pain, numbness or lingering tingling sensation in affected areas
- Difficulty swallowing and speaking
- Behavioral changes
- Memory loss