According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke or brain attack is the second leading cause of mortality worldwide. After the recent pandemic episodes, many developing countries, including India, encountered a rapid increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the cerebral blood vessels suddenly rupture or get blocked, leading to lower or complete shutting of the oxygenated blood supply to the brain. The sudden interruption of the blood supply can hamper brain functioning. The oxygen deprivation in brain nerves and tissues for fewer minutes can cause severe and permanent damage. According to its origin, stroke can be the following types:
- Hemorrhagic stroke: The root cause of this stroke is sudden rupture or seepage of the blood vessel into the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is a potentially life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical assistance.
- Ischemic stroke: Most of the strokes are ischemic strokes. Sudden blockage or narrowing of the cerebral artery can prevent oxygen supply to brain cells and tissues, which can cause a stroke. The prime causes of ischemic stroke are the narrowing or complete plugging of the vessel by a blood clot or blood vessel stenosis.
- Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs): TIAs occur when there is a brief interruption in the blood supply to the brain. It increases the prevalence of a more severe stroke in the future if not treated timely.
What are the causes and risk factors of cerebral stroke?
The exact cause of stroke depends on the type of stroke, such as:
- An ischemic stroke happens when cerebral vessels get blocked by cerebral emboli or thrombotic clots.
- A TIA or mini-brain stroke occurs when the blockage or blood clot disappears after a few minutes or hours, and blood flow restores.
- A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when higher blood pressure levels, trauma, stress, and certain medicines can cause rupture and leakage of blood from vessels.
The following factors can increase the chances of one having a cerebral stroke:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Family history of stroke
- Obesity, especially around the waist
- Unhealthy dietary habits include processed food, high-salty food items, and food products containing high cholesterol, Trans-fat, or saturated fats
- Being a couch potato
- Smoking tobacco and illicit drugs usage
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High levels of anxiety, stress, and depression
- Certain medications, such as blood-thinning medication or medicines for sickle cell disease
- Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and heart valve defects
- Having a bleeding disorder
- As you age chances of having a stroke increase
- Females are more prone to stroke than males
What are the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke?
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Trusted Source encourages people to remember the acronym FAST to spot the early signs of stroke. Noticing the early signs and symptoms of a stroke are the best way to prevent extensive permanent damage to the brain and complete recovery.
Acronym BE FAST imply for:
- B – Balance: Is there a sudden loss of balance?
- E – Eyes: Has a person lost vision or experiencing blurred or double vision?
- F- Face: Noticing one side of the Face drooping or numbness on one side of the face. Ask the person to smile to notice the dropping.
- A-Arms: One arm is weaker than the other. Ask the person to lift both arms if one arm begins to fall or drop. It may be a sign of a stroke.
- S- Speech: Slurred or garbled speech and speaking nonsensical words.
- T- Time: So, now it’s time to call the emergency helpline
The other signs and symptoms of a stroke are:
- Sudden severe headache
- Loss of balance or coordination and trouble walking
- Disorientation and state of confusion
- Blurry or change in vision in one or both eyes
- Stiffness in the neck region
- Paralysis or numbness in half or any part of the body
- Nausea and vomiting
How can we decrease the risk of getting a stroke?
Managing long-term illnesses and changing your lifestyle can lower your risk of getting a stroke, including:
- Consume healthy nutritional food products, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and brown rice. Eating food low in salt, trans-fats, and saturated fats and high in fibers can reduce the risk of a stroke.
- Indulge yourself in regular 30-45 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activities to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Maintain your body weight.
- Quit smoking as soon as you can.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol.
- Manage your chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular diseases.
Early recognition of symptoms and prompt treatment can improve the treatment outcome. A person can recover completely from a stroke with proper rehabilitation. Therefore, if you see any of the above signs or symptoms in your loved ones or nearby person be fast.
Dr. Amit Shrivastava, Senior Consultant – Neurology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, New Delhi