- 29 October 2019
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Are You at Risk of Stroke?
We don’t go to the doctor unless we experience some symptoms. Furthermore, we tend to ignore some symptoms – such as weakness, fatigue, indigestion, constipation or heartburn assuming those to be due to common health conditions. We don’t even bother about our lifestyle – let it be our eating habits, social habits or inactivity. In spite of knowing about our bad habits and their harmful effects the irony with most of us today is that we cherish sumptuous food – whether it is unhealthy or junk doesn’t matter to us; we indulge in late-night parties; love to have carbonated beverages and soft drinks with fatty foods to satiate our taste buds; we find satisfaction and solace in bingeing, sleeping late, smoking, waking up late and remaining confined to our work stations. The life goes on smoothly taking us into a deep stance that positively reinforces us to do what we like the most.
Sometimes, all of a sudden something very unusual happens without giving any warning signs and deteriorating us completely. Stroke is one such condition that strikes suddenly and doesn’t even give time to recuperate. Now the big questions here are – is our lifestyle making us pay the price? Are there any risk factors of stroke that we are ignoring? Is there any possibility to know the potential risk factors of stroke and reduce the risk? Are there any warning signs of stroke that go unnoticed? Let us try to understand and find answers for many more such questions.
What is a Stroke?
Arteries (blood vessel) supply blood to the brain. Healthy arteries supply uninterrupted blood to the brain. When the blood supply to the brain is interrupted a stroke occurs. The interruption can happen in two ways: based on which stroke is of two types: Ischemic stroke and Haemorrhagic stroke. When a blood vessel in the brain is blocked due to plaque formation or clot formation in it or due to a clot that travelled up to the brain from another major artery. This type of stroke is known as ischemic stroke. When an artery in the brain ruptures mostly due to high blood pressure haemorrhagic stroke occurs. Haemorrhagic strokes are not as common as ischemic strokes – but both types of strokes are life-threatening ones. ischemic stroke is one of the most common types of stroke.
Sometimes a small blood clot in the artery can block the blood supply to the brain for a short period of time. It is known as a mini-stroke or a transient ischemic stroke (TIA). Usually, this type of stroke doesn’t cause any serious damage to the brain and the body, but it gives potential warning sign and an indication that the person who experienced this stroke is at an increased risk of having another more prominent and full-blown stroke in the future. The signs and symptoms associated with TIA are the same as a stroke, but they resolve. The duration of this type of stroke is about 30 minutes or more or even for several hours. This type of stroke can occur one or more times. However, treatment is still required with a FAST approach.
What are the risk factors that make us prone to stroke?
The major risk factor for stroke is an unhealthy lifestyle – smoking, excessive intake of junk food, fatty foods, sweets, excessive alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activity and exercise, stress, lack of sleep and consumption of high-cholesterol foods. These unhealthy habits deteriorate our health progressively over a period of time and may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. In addition, the health of the arteries that supply healthy blood uninterruptedly to the brain and the heart also gets deteriorated over a period of time due to the formation of fatty deposits (plaques) and clots in the arteries. Due to plaque formation, the arteries that supply blood to the brain clog and cause interruption of blood supply to the brain. This condition may lead to a full-blown ischemic stroke (a life-threatening condition). The other type of stroke is haemorrhagic stroke – which occurs due to bursting of blood vessels inside the brain (bleeding in the brain). This type of stroke is also quite devastating. The major risk factors for haemorrhagic stroke include a sedentary lifestyle, high-pressure lifestyle, emotional turmoil, stress and high blood pressure.
The risk factors that no one can change include a strong family history of stroke – which is hereditary or genetic. Individuals falling under this category are naturally at risk and the risk augments manifolds if they have an unhealthy lifestyle. The risk of stroke in women is more compared to man and the risk factors that augments stroke risk in women include menstrual issues, high blood pressure, mood swings, depression, gestational diabetes, diabetes, usage of oral contraceptives, hormonal changes, obesity, anxiety and migraines.
What are the warning signs of a stroke?
Sudden severe headache, weakness or numbness in one leg, one arm, face or one side of the body, dizziness, loss of balance, drooping face, trouble speaking, trouble understanding, slurred speech, uneven smile (speech disturbances), blurred vision, difficulty in seeing around, confusion; trouble walking, balancing, coordinating, moving arm or leg are the typical signs of stroke.
Women experience some unique symptoms of stroke such as body pain, vomiting, nausea, seizures, weakness, fainting, hallucinations, shortness of breath, behavioural changes, agitation and hiccups.
A FAST test for the Identification of Stroke
FAST test is very important as far as stroke and knowing the symptoms of a stroke are concerned. There are some prominent stroke symptoms, which can be easily identified if someone is quick enough to pay attention to. Let us diligently act FAST.
Face: Face droops one side or smile becomes uneven.
Arms: Weakness in arms – both the arms or one arm becomes weak (patient feels difficulty in holding the arms up)
Speech: Slurred Speech
Time: Quick action is required if you notice all the above symptoms as yes
Stroke requires fast action for a successful outcome.
Diagnosis of Stroke
As soon as the patient approaches a neurologist, the doctor evaluates the patient completely and takes note of the symptoms, risk factors, present health conditions and previous medical history. After the clinical examination, if the neurologist suspects the case as stroke, then they may recommend MRI or computerized tomography. However, based on the signs and symptoms and the severity of the condition, the diagnostic tests and scanning tests may be ordered.
Brain Stroke Treatment
Based on the clinical examination of the patient, associated signs and symptoms and the reports of the diagnostic tests, the neurologist confirms the diagnosis. Medicines to lower blood pressure, remove blood clots and to reduce cholesterol levels are prescribed. Some cases may require surgery to treat bleeding and swelling in the brain.
Stroke is a medical emergency. If symptoms of stroke manifest, they should be taken as seriously as the risk is very high. Stroke leads to some serious and lasting consequences on health. Paralysis, brain injury, permanent disability and sudden death are the risks associated with stroke. The aftermath of stroke is quite devastating as the disabilities are long-lasting. Looking at the risk associated with stroke and the potential consequences it carries, one must have a proper understanding of stroke, its signs and symptoms and the future risks.