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What is a Silent Stroke?

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What is a Silent Stroke?

What is a Silent Stroke (Silent Cerebral Infarction) ?

Stroke strikes with some warning signs and symptoms, but there are some instances wherein stroke symptoms do not manifest at all. Stroke strikes without any warning signs and symptoms – such a type of stroke in which the person having it doesn’t seem to experience any clear symptoms or doesn’t realize whether he or she had a stroke is known as a silent stroke. Whatever may be the cause or type of stroke, if a stroke strikes, it may lead to permanent damage in the brain.

Silent Stroke – What is the risk?

A silent stroke induces silent damage to the brain as it doesn’t come with the warning signs and symptoms like that of a typical brain stroke. A silent stroke can become life-threatening because it is difficult to detect.

Facts about Silent Stroke

Silent stroke does not cause easily recognizable stroke symptoms

It damages the brain like any other type of stroke

The risk of getting a severe stroke is high with a silent stroke

A silent stroke is hard to recognize

Silent stroke affects memory and concentration

It gives a feeling of lost in a familiar place

How is a silent stroke different from a typical stroke?

A silent stroke comes with no symptoms, whereas a stroke is associated with these symptoms: drooping face, slurred speech, numbness in arms and legs, weakness in one side of the body, walking difficulty. A silent stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is blocked or cuts off suddenly. The affected part of the brain is deprived of oxygen and thus brain damage occurs. A silent stroke becomes difficult to recognize as it damages that part of the brain which doesn’t control the functions like movement and speech – still the damage is irreversible.

What happens if you experience a silent stroke?

When a person experiences a silent stroke without knowing whether he or she had a stroke, he may get normal, but the possibility of having stroke in the future increases manifolds. A silent stroke can cause damage to the brain leading to memory and cognitive issues and also alterations in the thinking ability of the person.  Moreover, the risk of getting a severe and a full-blown stroke in the future increases as well. A stroke specialist can easily diagnose silent stroke if the patient approaches him at the earliest.

Detecting a Silent Stroke

An experienced and senior consultant neurologist and stroke specialist can make the diagnosis of a silent stroke by clinically examining the patient, evaluating the present condition of the patient and their medical history. But in general, detection of silent strokes merely on the basis of symptoms may not be possible without performing a brain scan or MRI. Based on the symptoms, case and medical history of the patient and scanning reports, the doctor can diagnose a silent stroke.

Are Silent Stokes Common?

Stroke risk increases with the age, family history and personal history of an individual. The other risk factors include high blood pressure, a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, inactivity, eating habits and stress. Silent strokes’ incidences are common in both males and females and especially in the middle-age group population. Majority of silent strokes may lead to brain damage – which is permanent. However, treatment, post treatment therapy and rehabilitation help in stimulating weakened parts of the brain to renewed strength and recuperating abilities. As a result, the patient can regain movement and weakened abilities to normalcy.

Other Risk Factors

Age is a major risk factor as the risk increases with advancing age. People older than 65 years are at risk – which is approximately two-fold higher than the other age group.

Irregular heartbeat ( Atrial fibrillation – the common type of irregular or abnormal heartbeat) is another risk factor especially in older population.

The factors that increases the risk of atrial fibrillation are the risk factors for silent stroke.

Increased homocysteine levels in the blood.

Tips to Prevent Silent Stroke

Healthy lifestyle – the way you lead your life has a bearing on your health. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle includes healthy eating habits, sound sleep and stress management.

Manage stress – it will reduce your risk of both heart disease and stroke
Keep your blood sugar levels under check – this helps in reducing the risk of both heart disease and stroke and also other neurological disorders.
Keep your cholesterol levels and blood pressure under control to reduce the risk of irregular heartbeats and stroke.
Avoid junk, fatty, canned and preserved foods
Reduce alcohol consumption
Quick smoking if you smoke
Maintain a healthy body weight with appropriate BMI
indulge in exercise at least twice or thrice a week.

What more you can do?

Concentrate on diet and incorporate plenty of green leafy vegetables, cereals, fresh fruits, colourful fruits and whole grains and fiber-rich food items in your diet; avoid consuming saturated fats, meat and meat products, canned foods, sugar and salt.

Dr Vikram Sharma

MBBS, MD, MRCP, DN (London), FAAN (USA)

Senior Consultant Neurologist

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