Strokes or brain attacks happen when the supply of blood to the brain or a part of the brain is blocked or reduced. Blocked or reduced blood supply causes the brain tissue to starve of blood, oxygen and necessary nutrients leading to death or damage of the tissue if proper medical treatment is not received within a few minutes. However, even immediate medical treatment is no guarantee for survival, since survival depends on the intensity of the stroke and the severity of the underlying problem. More so, a rupture, bleeding or damage of the blood vessels can also cause a stroke due to leakage of blood in the brain tissue, causing haemorrhage.
A stroke is a medical emergency, and a person experiencing stroke should be given immediate medical attention before the condition worsens, leading to brain damage or death.
Certain factors increase the chances of a person suffering from a stroke. These factors include:
- Lifestyle habits such as lack of physical activity, drug abuse, smoking, lack of activeness, alcohol, etc.
- Health problems such as obesity, unhealthy weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea, heart problems, family history, etc.
- Unhealthy diet including excessive salt, trans fat, saturated fat, etc.
- Other health conditions such as increasing age, hormones and gender (men are more vulnerable to stroke while women who experience a stroke have a higher mortality rate than men)
Symptoms of Stroke
A person experiencing stroke can be saved provided medical care is given timely. However, to ensure that medical care is received within a short time period, it is critical to understand the symptoms to reduce complications and increase chances of survival. Some general symptoms that indicate a stroke include:
- Trouble in speech including slurry speech
- Problem in understanding speech
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg
- Vision issues – blurred or blackened vision
- Intense and unexplained headache
- Loss of consciousness
- Lack of coordination
- Dizziness and vomiting
- Balancing and walking problems
That said, women need to be more attentive towards specific symptoms since they differ from those experienced by men. These include:
- Shortness of breath
- Lack of responsiveness
- Sudden anxiety or agitation
A delay in treatment of a person experiencing a stroke can lead to severe complications such as:
- Brain Damage
- Long-term or permanent disability
Treatment of Stroke
Timely detection and immediate medical care are the primary treatment methods that can help avoid complications of a stroke. Moreover, effective treatment helps to reduce the impact and also increase the chances of survival. Some of the common treatment options for strokes are:
When a stroke is caused due to blockage or narrowing of the artery –
- Antiplatelet and Anticoagulants drugs which are to be consumed within 48 hours of experiencing stroke symptoms.
- Clot-breaking Drugs such as thrombolytic that help to break up the blood clots and restore normal blood supply to the brain
- Mechanical Thrombectomy is a surgery performed through a catheter which is inserted into the blood vessel to pull out the clot and restore the flow of blood to the brain. This surgery increase chances of survival provided it is done within 6 to 24 hours of the stroke.
- Stents are placed in the blocked or narrowed artery to support its walls and inflate it, ensuring smooth flow of blood.
- Open Surgery is considered when all other less-invasive methods do not qualify, have failed and if the blood clots restricting the flow of blood is too large. The surgery restores the blood flow by opening the compromised artery to remove the blockage.
When a stroke is caused due to a rupture or leakage of blood vessels –
- Medicines can be prescribed to promote the clotting of blood. These medicines reverse the impact of blood thinners, reduce the blood pressure, calm the brain and avert seizures.
- Coiling can be done to block the leakage of blood by inserting a thin, flexible tube into the affected area or compromised blood vessel, followed by placing a coil-like instrument to stop the leakage.
- Clamping is a preventive method to control further damage in cases where an aneurysm is found in the blood but has not started to bleed or has stopped bleeding. In this method, doctors clamp the aneurysm’s base to stop the bleeding.
- Surgery is performed to control excessive leakage of blood and also in cases where there is a lot of pressure on the brain after a heavy stroke.
Strokes can be avoided if preventive care is taken, such as healthy lifestyle, good eating habits, physical activity, regular health check-ups, etc. Moreover, strokes can be treated effectively to avoid complications provided the symptoms are identified timely and adequate, timely medical care is received.