Stroke is the 2nd leading cause of disability worldwide. About 15 million people around the world suffer strokes every year and a third of them die as a result. As for the U.S, stroke is currently the 5th leading cause of death.
While the incidence of stroke is decreasing in the developed world, it is constantly on the rise in the developing countries. While only an estimate, stroke mortality will triple in the next two decades in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. People of all ages can be affected by stroke, but elderly individuals are at an increased risk.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is obstructed. Lacking oxygen, brain cells die off. Stroke sufferers are likely to lose abilities or memories situate in the affected parts of the brain.
Types of Stroke
Hemorrhagic :t occurs when an enlarged artery bursts or a blood vessel leaks, causing pressure in the brain.
- Intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when the damaged vessel leaks blood in the brain tissue, killing brain cells. Sometimes it occurs due to a genetic malformation of arteries and veins in the central nervous system.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs as a result of bleeding in the space between the brain and the tissues nearby. It is usually caused by a burst aneurysm, use of blood-thinning medication, or a head injury.
Ischemic : This is the most common type of stroke and it is caused by a blood clot or a blockage in a blood vessel which restricts the blood flow to the brain.
- A blood clot can be formed and break off anywhere in the circulatory system. It can get stuck in the brain if it reaches a blood vessel which is too small for it to allow passage.
- A thrombotic stroke happens when a blood clot forms within one of the arteries that supply the brain with blood, causing a blockage.
- A transient ischemic attack (TIA) refers to a temporary blockage of blood to the brain.
What Contributes to Risk of Stroke?
Here are the major risk factors for a stroke:
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Sickle cell disease
- Alcohol abuse
- Chronically high cholesterol
- Atherosclerosis or other cardiovascular diseases
- Smoking cigarettes
- Stress and depression
12 Symptoms of a Stroke
The symptoms depend on the part of the brain affected by the restriction of blood supply. Here are some of the major symptoms of a stroke:
1. Pain on one side of the face
Sudden and unexplained pain on one side of the face, chest, arm, or leg is not typical, but not uncommon either. It is worth noting that women are more prone to experiencing atypical stroke symptoms.
2. Blurry vision
Blurred vision, inability to focus, sudden difficulty in seeing properly, and similar changes can indicate a stroke.
3. Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Generally, there is a significant difference between the stroke symptoms in women and women. Having difficulty breathing or swallowing are just a few examples. Other signs that typically affect women include irritation, nausea, vomiting, sudden pain, hiccups, seizures, and fainting.
Hand tremors are quite uncommon but a proven symptom of cerebral infraction-obstruction of blood supply to the brain.
5. Loss of Balance
Loss of balance, lack of coordination, and dizziness are very common symptoms of stroke and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
6. Difficult to walk
Instability, trouble walking, and numbness/ tingling anywhere in the body can indicate a stroke.
7. Facial paralysis
This is the most common stroke symptom, manifested by sudden weakness or paralysis of one side of the face, arm, or leg.
“Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Similarly, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile,” notes the Mayo Clinic.
A sudden, sharp, and debilitating headache, particularly in younger individuals, might indicate stroke. Women are more likely to experience this symptom compared to men.
If you find yourself confused, disorientated, or unable to think normally out of the blue, it might be a sign of stroke.
Dizziness and imbalance that come hand in hand with vertigo are often symptoms of stroke. Vertigo on its own is a matter of imbalance in the inner ear and can be treated effectively. As for brain stem stroke, the prognosis is as follows:
“Dramatic recovery from a brain stem stroke is possible. Because brain stem strokes do not usually affect language ability, the patient is able to participate more fully in rehabilitation therapy. Most deficits are motor-related, not cognitive. Double vision and vertigo commonly resolve after several weeks of recovery in mild to moderate brain stem strokes.”
11. Trouble speaking
Stroke often affects the area of the brain that is in charge for speech. Hence, slurred speech, inability to speak, or inability to understand speech are quite common when suffering a stroke.
Women are likely to experience fatigue, confusion, and weakness at the moment of having a stroke.
To prevent stroke, consider these lifestyle changes:
- Give up smoking
- Regulate blood sugar levels
- Maintain healthy blood pressure levels
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Keep a healthy weight
FAST for Stroke
The acronym “FAST” is used to spread the warning signs and what to do when someone is having a stroke.
- F (Face): Ask the person to smile and check out their face, looking for any droopings on one side of the face
- A (Arms): Ask the person to raise both arms.
- S (Speech): Ask the person to say a phrase without slurring.
- T (Time): Don’t waste time.