To answer the question, here is a piece of medical statistics.
According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled.
So, if stroke can cause millions of deaths every year, it is an emergency but first we need to answer the most important question.
What is a stroke?
A stroke also known as a cerebrovascular accident occurs when a part of the brain loses its blood supply and the part of the body controlled by the blood deprived brain region stops working. More commonly referred to as a brain attack, recognizing the symptoms is the first step towards preventing it.
If the person suffering from stroke is not given proper medical attention, it can lead to permanent damage and in some rather unfortunate cases, death. A stroke is an emergency because as soon as the blood supply to the brain cells is cut off, the cells are deprived of glucose and oxygen which can be catastrophic. For each second the brain cells are deprived of oxygen the brain damage increases.
There are two types of strokes:
- Ischemic Stroke
In this type of stroke, a part of the brain loses blood supply. It is similar to a heart attack but it occurs in the blood vessels of the brain. It occurs when blood vessels are blocked by a clot, which can be anywhere in the body and can travel up to the brain. When there are a lot of plaque (fatty deposits) or high cholesterol in the body the chances of an ischemic stroke increase. According to data collected over the years, 80% of all strokes are ischemic.
- Transient Ischemic Attack:
More commonly known as a mini – stroke a TIA is brief disruption of blood flow in the brain that causes stroke like symptoms. Though it is not as serious as an actual stroke it is equally alarming and must be taken seriously. Its causes are similar to that of a heart attack. High blood pressure, family history of strokes and diabetes.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke
In an hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding occurs within the brain. It happens when a blood vessel inside the brain ruptures. As a result, blood seeps into brain tissues and damages the cells. High blood pressure and brain aneurysms are leading causes of a brain stroke.
Causes of a stroke:
The major causes of a stroke are a blood clot or an aneurysm. Though these two can be a direct result of a number of things. Let us have a look at different causes of aneurysms and clots.
- Blood Pressure:
High blood pressure is a common condition among adults, which is the force of blood pressing against your arteries. The higher the pressure, the harder the heart has to work, which can cause serious damage to your arteries.
- Atrial fibrillation:
A- fib is an irregular heartbeat that increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness etc. One should pay attention to their diet, take medicines as prescribed by the doctor and make necessary lifestyle changes to prevent the symptoms from worsening.
- Uncontrolled diabetes:
Diabetes is caused by deficiency of insulin released by the pancreas or inappropriate reaction of the body towards the released insulin. People with diabetes have a higher risk of heart diseases which in turn increase the risk for strokes.
- High cholesterol:
Having high cholesterol considerably increases one’s chances of suffering from a stroke. High cholesterol leads to fatty deposits on the artery walls, making them stiff and prone to blood clot formation.
Smoking releases carbon monoxide and nicotine in your bloodstream. Haemoglobin having higher affinity to carbon monoxide reduces the oxygen content and nicotine increases the blood pressure. Apart from being a risk factor for strokes, smoking causes a lot of damage to our lungs and often leads to cancer.
Smoking increases the chances of lung cancer, similarly obesity increases the chance of stroke. The fatty deposits pose problems in blood flow, increase the blood pressure therefore making the person vulnerable to blood clot formation, which as we discussed earlier is the leading cause of a stroke.
Also known as the coronary artery disease, it is the blockage or narrowing of the arteries caused by atherosclerosis. Hardening of the carotid (arteries in the neck), is a major risk factor for stroke as these arteries are responsible for supplying blood to the brain. Blockages in the carotid can lead to clot formation and inevitably, a stroke.
Signs and symptoms of a stroke
A stroke is a medical emergency and therefore knowing its symptoms plays an important part in preventing and treating it. Following are the symptoms:
- Difficulty with balance and vertigo
- Difficulty in speech
- Numbness in one half or other parts of the body
- Partial vision or double vision
- Acute changes in consciousness
- Onset of weakness or paralysis
We can prevent stroke through making simple lifestyle changes like exercise, physical activity, yoga, and taking care of our diet. Most of the causes of a stroke are similar to causes of heart diseases therefore by taking good care of our heart and diet and weight, we can lead a stroke-free life.