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What is Stroke?
Similar to a heart attack, Stroke is a blockage in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. This is a major illness, needing extra precaution. It can happen to anyone at any point of time. The degree of damage depends upon the area and the extent of damage. For example, someone who had a minor stroke attack can only feel pain and temporary weakness in his arms or legs. However, people who have experienced major stroke can be permanently paralyzed from one side.
How prevalent is Stroke?
Stroke is the leading cause of serious disability taking substantial lives. The reported death rate of stroke is approximately 5-6%. Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in the world. Out of the total stroke cases reported almost 87% cases are due to ischemic stroke i.e. due to the blockages in the blood vessels.
The risk of having the stroke is also evidently reported to be different for different ethnic groups. The risk of having the stroke has been reported to be almost double in the black people as compared to whites. The report also shows evidences that American Indians, Alaska natives and blacks are more prone to have stroke rather than other ethnic groups.
There is no evidence of particular age group falling prey to the stroke as it can occur at any point of time. Almost 34% of the people hospitalized for stroke were younger than 65 years old.
Factors responsible for Stroke
Anyone can have stroke at any point of time, no particular age or time factor is reported. However, many common medical conditions can increase the risk associated with the disease.
Transient Ischemic Attack – If you already had a stroke or mini ischemic attack then you have a higher chance of having another stroke.
High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure is the major risk factor for stroke. Since the pressure on the arteries or blood vessels supplying the blood to important organs such as the brain is high, the chances of getting affected by the condition are higher. Lowering the pressure by improving lifestyle and implementing healthy eating habits can minimize the chances.
High Cholesterol –Cholesterol is the fatty substance prepared by the liver for the day to day use of the body. However, an excess of cholesterol can be built up in the arteries, including those of the brain. This can lead to the narrowing of the arteries leading to stroke and other problems.
Heart Disease – Common heart problems such as coronary heart disease can increase the risk associated with stroke as plaque builds up in the arteries that can in turn block the flow of oxygen rich blood to the brain. Other heart conditions such as heart valve defects, irregular heartbeats and enlarged heart chambers can cause the clotting of blood leading to stroke.
Diabetes – Our body needs glucose for energy. Insulin is the hormone which is responsible for transporting glucose from blood to the cells. This may lead to the increased sugar level in the blood, which will then ultimately convert into fat. The increased fat deposition in the blood vessels may cause the stroke.
Sickle Cell Disease – This disease is more common in Black and Hispanic children. The disease causes the red blood cells to achieve the abnormal sickle shape, which will obstruct the blood flow of the arteries leading to its blockage.
Apart from these medical conditions, some environmental factors such as diet, physical activity, weight, overuse of alcohol or tobacco may increase the risk of stroke. Since genetic factors can also play a major role in developing high blood pressure, diabetes etc. stroke is said to have genetic link up.
Symptoms Associated with the Stroke
Strokes can occur within a very short period of time and as such it comes without a warning. Some of the noted symptoms of the disease are as follows:
- Confusion or vague speaking or listening.
- Headache possibly with altered consciousness or vomiting.
- Numbness of one side of the body covering face, arm and neck.
- Trouble looking with one or both eyes.
- Trouble walking including dizziness as well as lack of coordination.
Apart from the above noted symptoms, stroke can as well lead to problems and lifelong difficulties such as:
- Bladder or bowel control problems
- Pain in hands and legs that can get worsen over time.
- Weakness in one or both the sides of the body.
- Trouble controlling or expressing the emotions.
Prognosis associated with the Stroke
Since stroke takes control of the body quickly, it is very important that the diagnosis of stroke should be made quickly. There are some signs available, which can help toward identifying the onset of stroke.
- One side of the face droops when the person tries to smile.
- Drifting of the arm when a person tries to raise both the arms.
- Slurred speech.
Both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke require special kind of treatment. However, a brain scan is the only way of confirming stroke.
Stroke is broadly classified into three major parts as follows:
Hemorrhagic Stroke – This is a less common type affecting less than 15% of people, but they are responsible for about 40% of all the stroke deaths. This occurs due to rupturing of the weakened walls of the blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Due to this rupture, the blood is released in the different parts of the brain causing stroke. This spillage creates instant damage in the blood vessels surrounding the area, causing major death of brain cells or neurons.
Ischemic Stroke – This type of stroke occurs when the vessel supplying blood to the different parts of the brain is blocked by the clot. Due to this clotting, the supply of blood is halted resulting in the loss of brain cells. Due to life style and environmental factors, this type of stroke is more common, accounting for about 87% of the stroke patients. However, this is the less severe form of stroke which can be kept under control by taking precautionary measures. Survival rates are higher in ischemic stroke as compared to other forms.
Transient Ischemic Attack – This form of stroke has a very short duration involving stoppage of blood for a very short period of time. This type of stroke is also called as mini stroke. The symptoms of this stroke appear and last for less than 24 hours. This is known to be a very minor attack that is not causing any permanent damage. However, this can be taken as a warning signal for the future stroke attack and hence should not be ignored.