A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or an artery. This blockage interrupts the flow of blood to the brain, killing brain cells and causing brain damage. Brain damage can cause vital abilities to be lost, such as speech, memory, and movement. The abilities lost depend on which area of the brain was affected and how much damage was done. The affects can be mild, like a weak limb, or major, like paralysis. Strokes are in the top 5 leading cause of death in the United States.
Risk Factors and Causes
The risk factors and causes of strokes are numerous. There are some risks that cannot be helped, but it is still important to do all that you can to prevent a stroke from happening to you.
- Age: The chances of you having a stroke double every decade after you turn 55.
- Family History: If you’ve had a close relative that had a stroke, the chances of you having a stroke greatly increase.
- Prior Heart Problems: If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke before, you are more likely to have one again.
- Lifestyle: A lack of exercise, an improper diet, smoking, and drinking can all contribute to an increased risk of having a stroke. Consuming saturated fat, trans fat, and high-cholesterol foods all significantly increase risk of stroke. Likewise, smoking and excessive drinking can both lead to a stroke.
- Medical Diseases: High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and obesity can all put you at increased risk for a stroke.
There is an acronym called FAST that will help you to identify if you are having a stroke.
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 9-1-1
Other signs of a stroke include sudden weakness or numbness in the arm, leg or face, confusion understanding simple things, inability to see out of either or both eyes, sudden loss of balance or dizziness, trouble walking, and a sudden, massive headache.
The doctor will run some tests to determine whether or not you’ve had a stroke. These tests can be grouped into three categories: imaging, electrical activity, and blood flow. Imaging tests include MRI and CT scans. Electrical tests use EEG and Evoked Response to measure the brain’s electrical activity. A blood flow test examines and measures the flow of blood through an artery and is usually executed using ultrasound.
Types of Stroke
There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes occur when there is blockage in a blood vessel that leads to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel bursts and the blood surrounds the brain.
Most people survive a stroke. In fact, 75% of them survive after one year. Half of those go on living five or more years after their first stroke. Still, prognosis is poor. Strokes often affect important parts of the brain that can cause changes in motor skills or even personality. Complications from a stroke can lead to death in a large majority of patients, and there is always the chance of having a second or third stroke.
After having a stroke, complications are almost guaranteed. In order to reduce the risks of these complications, you will need to get plenty of oxygen, make sure you are breathing correctly, have a healthy balance of electrolytes, manage your fever, and monitor your brain and heart. Intensive medical monitoring will be important following a stroke.
Some stroke patients may need therapy to help to get them back on the right track. Therapy may help adjust to changes in physical functions or learn coping skills to recognize emotional changes. It’s important to make the regularly scheduled appointments for therapy and continue for as long as needed. Many stroke patients believe therapy is unnecessary, but it is a way to help restore health, enhance strength, and preserve independence.
The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material found on this website is intended to promote and encourage consumer understanding and should not be considered alternative or supplementary medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your health or physical condition, seek the advice of a licensed qualified healthcare provider. Be sure to discuss any changes or concerns with your doctor before beginning a new healthcare regimen, undergoing any procedures, or changing current healthcare plans. Seniors and Health does not claim medical representation and assumes no responsibility in the accuracy of the information available on this website.