What is a stroke?

A stroke is a condition in which the brain cells suddenly die because of a lack of oxygen.

Fast facts on stroke:

  • A stroke can be caused by an obstruction in the blood flow, or the rupture of an artery that feeds the brain.
  • There are two main types of stroke; ischemic and hemorrhagic.
  • Ischemic strokes are ultimately caused by a thrombus or embolus that blocks blood flow to the brain.
  • Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure, a head injury or aneurysms.
  • Smaller strokes (or silent strokes), however, may not cause any symptoms, but can still damage brain tissue.

Who gets stroke?

Anyone can suffer from stroke. Although many risk factors are out of our control, several can be kept in line through proper nutrition and medical care.

Risk factors for stroke include the following:

  • Age - as you get older your risk increases.
  • Being male.
  • A family history of stroke.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes.
  • Obesity and overweight.
  • Psychological stress.

What are the symptoms of stroke?

Within a few minutes of having a stroke brain cells begin to die and symptoms emerge. It is important to recognize the symptoms, as prompt treatment is crucial to recovery. Common symptoms include:

  • Trouble walking, loss of balance and coordination.
  • Speech problems.
  • Dizziness.
  • Numbness, weakness, or paralysis.
  • Blurred, blackened or double vision.
  • Sudden severe headache.
  • Confusion.

How is stroke diagnosed?

A stroke is a medical emergency, and anyone suspected of having one should be taken to hospital immediately so that tests can be run and the correct treatment can be provided as quickly as possible. Physicians have several tools available to screen for stroke risk and diagnose an active stroke. These include:

  • Physical assessment – blood pressure tests and blood tests to see cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and amino acid levels.
  • Ultrasound - a wand waved over the carotid arteries in the neck can provide a picture that shows whether there is any narrowing or clotting.
  • Arteriography - a catheter is inserted into the arteries to inject a dye that can be picked up by x-rays.
  • Computerized tomography (ct) scan - a scanning device that creates a 3d image that can show aneurysms, bleeding, or abnormal vessels within the brain.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (mri) - a magnetic field generates a 3d view of the brain to look at tissue damaged by stroke.
  • Ct and mri with angiography - scans that are aided by a dye that is injected into the blood vessels in order to provide clearer and more detailed images.
  • Echocardiography - an ultrasound that makes images of the heart to check for embolus.

How is stroke treated?

The outcome of a stroke depends on where the stroke occurs and how much of the brain is affected.

Ischemic stroke: the primary goal in treating ischemic stroke is to restore blood flow to the brain. This will be attempted using a blood clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tpa). A doctor will inject tpa into the patient's arm. If for some reason the patient can't receive the tpa then an anti-platelet medicine will be used instead.

In addition, surgical procedures may be performed that can open up or widen arteries. These include carotid endarterectomy (removal of plaque and widening of the carotid artery) and angioplasty (a balloon that widens the carotid artery and is held open with a metallic mesh tube called a stent).

Hemorrhagic stroke: is treated differently than ischemic stroke. Surgical methods used to treat this stroke variant include aneurysm clipping, aneurysm embolisation, and arteriovenous malformation (avm) removal.

Aneurysm clipping consists of a small clamp placed at the base of the aneurysm that isolates it from the circulation of its attached artery and keeps the aneurysm from bursting or re-bleeding. Aneurysm embolisation (coiling) uses a catheter inserted into the aneurysm to deposit a tiny coil that fills the aneurysm, causing clotting and sealing off the aneurysm off from arteries. Avm removal is a surgical procedure to remove usually smaller avms or amvs that are in more accessible portions of the brain in order to eliminate the risk of rupture.

Rehabilitation: most stroke patients will require rehabilitation after the event. A person's condition is generally dependent on the area of the brain and the amount of tissue that was damaged. It is common for the rehabilitation process to include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and family education.

Stroke prevention

Much of stroke prevention is based on living a healthy lifestyle, which include:

  • Identifying and controlling blood pressure.
  • Not smoking.
  • Lowering cholesterol, sodium, and fat intake.
  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation.
  • Treating diabetes properly.
  • Managing stress.
  • Being physically active.

Reference: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

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