A stroke or the brain attack is a condition, wherein, there is an interruption in the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Usually, it happens due to the formation of a clot causing blockage in the arteries carrying blood to the brain. Stroke can also occur if the blood carrying arteries bursts which affect the blood supply to the brain. This cut off in the blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain can damage the brain cells. The severity of a stroke can vary depending on several factors but a severe stroke can even lead to sudden death.
World Health Organization estimates that approx 15 million people suffer from stroke worldwide each year. Out of this, high blood pressure accounts for more than 12.7 million strokes throughout the world.
Stroke can lead to several health complications including brain edema (swelling of the brain), seizures, pneumonia and urinary tract infection (due to the use of a catheter to collect urine as the individual loses the control over their bladder function). Additionally, clinical depression, bedsores, shoulder pain and deep venous thrombosis (blood clots in veins of the legs) can also occur in stroke survivors.
Different Types of Stroke
Generally, stroke is of two types, i.e. ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.
Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke affecting individuals and it accounts for up to 85% of all the cases. It is a type of stroke in which blood clot blocks the arteries which carries blood to the brain. This prevents the brain to get the oxygen-rich blood which results in brain cell damage. Hypertension or high blood pressure is the major risk factor for ischemic stroke.
Whereas, hemorrhagic stroke is less common but is more serious then ischemic stroke with higher death rates. In this blood starts to bleed from arteries either due to the weak blood vessels causing leakage or due to the bursting of brain aneurysm (a balloon-like structure forms on the walls of arteries).
What are its Risk Factors?
Some of the risk factors can’t be controlled which includes:
- A family history of stroke
However, some risk factors are related to the lifestyle which can be controlled by making certain lifestyle changes. These risk factors are:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol levels
- Cigarette smoking
- Alcohol consumption
- Lack of regular exercise
- Consuming high-fat diet
Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and atherosclerosis are other risk factors which are known to cause the stroke.
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
Sudden weakness or numbness of the arm, leg or face on one side of the body is one of the most common symptoms of stroke. Additionally, confusion, dizziness, difficulty in speaking or understanding, difficulty in walking, loss of coordination, severe headache, difficulty in seeing from one or both the eyes, fainting, unconsciousness and nausea are other symptoms.
How can I Help?
Whether it’s you or someone else, always remember the FAST test to look for the most common symptoms of stroke. Here FAST test stands for:
- Face: Look to the face of an individual and ask them to smile. See whether the one side of the face droops or not.
- Arms: Ask the individual to raise both the arms and see whether one arm drops down or not.
- Speech: Ask the individual to say and repeat a short phrase and try to notice the slurred speech.
- Time: If the result from one or more of the above tests is yes then immediately call for help as every minute becomes essential for the better outcomes.
Stroke Prevention: Is it Possible?
There is an increased risk of stroke in all those individuals who have already suffered from stroke previously. However, more than 50% of strokes can be prevented by certain lifestyle changes and coordinating with your healthcare professionals. Some of the healthy lifestyle habits which you can adopt are:
- Medical check-ups
Regular monitoring of certain risk factors such as heart disease, hypertension and high cholesterol levels by your physician is recommended to prevent stroke.
- Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure is often called the silent killer due to its no obvious symptoms. It is one of the major risk factors for stroke and if not treated, it increases the risk of stroke by several folds. Blood pressure can be controlled by reducing your weight, stress management, low-sodium diet and medications.
- Control your diabetes
Experts believe that diabetes and stroke are related to each other. Controlling your blood glucose level can reduce the risk of stroke.
- Healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet high in fiber along with fresh fruits and vegetables can significantly decrease the risk of stroke. Avoid eating food high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Limit the consumption of cooking oil, fat rich meat or dairy products, fried foods and eggs.
Similarly, avoiding the sodium intake by limiting the consumption of table salts, processed or canned foods and any other food with high sodium content can help in reducing hypertension and stroke. Consulting your physician is advised for making and planning the right diet charts.
Regular exercise helps you in maintaining a healthy weight, lowers your cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis which altogether ultimately reduces the risk of stroke. Various aerobic exercises like cycling, swimming, running, brisk walking or others are recommended for staying healthy and preventing stroke.
- Reduce your weight
Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart diseases and diabetes which are associated with stroke. Keeping your weight in the healthy range is recommended as a preventive measure for the stroke.
- Quit Smoking
Various researches have proved that smoking greatly increases the risk of having a stroke and this risk dramatically reduces within a few years of quitting smoking. Consult your physicians who can assist you and suggest different ways to quit smoking.
- Limit the alcohol intake
More than 2 drinks of alcohol intake or binge drinking increase the risk of stroke in individuals. In the case of heavy drinkers, this risk further increases making them susceptible to stroke.
If you have any queries regarding this article then feel free to post it in the comment section and till the next article ‘Keep Reading and Keep Learning’.
Meanwhile, if you want to read about diabetes then click on the below link.