Stroke: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Stroke: Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Written by Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant

According to HealthData.org, stroke is the third cause of death among Malaysians after Ischemic Heart Diseases and Lower Respiratory Infection with the mean age of stroke patients in Malaysia being between 54 and 62 years of age. It’s very likely that you’ve known a relative, friend or colleague that’s experienced a stroke given the prevalence of it. Since it’s Stroke Awareness Month, Parents Avenue is going to be shed a light, and educate our readers about what stroke is, its preventative measures and treatments to alleviate this condition.
 

What is a Stroke?

 
A stroke can also be known as a “brain attack”. It happens when the blood flow to an area in the brain is reduced, interrupted or cut. When this occurs, it prevents brain tissues and oxygen from reaching certain areas of the brain and as a result, brain cells begin to die. When this happens, our abilities that are ruled under that area such as memory and muscle control are lost. 
 
How exactly a person is implicated by a stroke is dependent on which part of the brain the stroke occurs and how much damage is inflicted in that area. Take for example, a person experiencing a small stroke will have lightweight effects such as weakness of an arm or leg.
 
 However, for a person with heavyweight stroke, they’ll experience heavier effects such as being permanently paralyzed on one side of the body, or, even lose their ability to speak. While some people will recuperate from a stroke, it’s been found that 2/3 of stroke survivors will end up with a form of disability.
 
There are 2 main type of strokes, Ischaemic stroke and Haemorrhagic stroke. Below are the listed characteristic following the type of stroke.
 
  • Ischaemic stroke
An Ischaemic stroke is the most frequent type of stroke to happen. It occurs when blood clots constrict the steady flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Much of these blood clots usually form in parts of the arteries have been narrowed or blocked over a length of time by fatty deposits that are identified as plaques. The process is which this is known for is called Atherosclerosis. As we grow older, our arteries will narrow on it’s own, and certain factors can speed up this process.
 
Other causes attributed to to Ischaemic stroke is a kind of irregular heartbeat called “atrial fibrillation”. This is when a stroke risk increases because the rapid heartbeat allows blood to pool in the heart, which can cause clots to form and travel to the brain.
 
  • Haemorrhagic stroke
Haermorrhagic stroke happens less frequently than Ischaemic stroke as it accounts for 14% of all strokes. This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the skull bursts and flows around the brain. In most cases, the main cause of Haermorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure which weakens the arteries in the brain that either makes them split or rupture.
 
To delve in deeper, high blood pressure and aging blood vessels are the most common causes of this type of stroke. Sometimes intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke can be caused by an arteriovenous malformation. AVM is a genetic condition of abnormal connection between arteries and veins and most often occurs in the brain or spine.
 

 

Image Source: enableme.org.au

Symptoms of stroke

 

Often times, stroke can appear anytime without warning. The main symptoms of strokes are usually as follows:
 
·      Confusion: Such as having difficulty speaking or understanding
·      Headache: Which causes vomiting
·      Numbness: That is typically felt around the face, arm, or leg on one  side of the body.
·      Problem with vision: As seen in one or both eyes
·      Trouble Walking: Which includes dizziness and lack of coordination.
 
However, the acronym F.A.S.T. is an easier and helpful way to remember and recognize the oncoming of a stroke, or the signs of stoke:
 
·      Face: Ask the person to smile. Does it droop to one side of the face?
·      Arms: Ask the person to raise both their arms. Does one drift downward?
·      Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is their speech slurry?
·      Time: If you observe any of these signs, call the hospital emergency services immediately.
Image Source: Orange Regional Medical Center

Preventative Measures

 
In order to prevent stroke effectively, it’s crucial for people to understand and know their risk factors. Some factors are associated with a higher risk of stroke includes firstly, age. People aged 55 or older and have a higher risk of stroke compared to younger people. Secondly, sex. Men have a reportedly higher risk of developing stroke. Lastly, are hormones. The use of birth control pills or hormonal therapies that include estrogen and elevated levels of estrogen from pregnancy to childbirth.
 
Through familiarizing yourself with your risk factors, and taking heed of your doctor’s recommendations it is possible to prevent a stroke from taking place. Among the preventative measures we can apply in our lifestyles are:
 
  • Quitting tobacco use
While quitting tobacco use may be challenging for a lot of people, it reaps many benefits in the long term for the aversion of any illness or diseases. For stroke particularly, smoking heightens the risk for smokers and especially non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke.
 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
The state of being overweight leads to different stroke factors which include high blood pressure, heart diseases and diabetes. Lessening your weight by as little as 10 pounds can decrease blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.
 
  • Keep your alcohol limit under tabs
Over the years, heavy drinking can result in high blood pressure, and increase the chances of two main strokes, the ischemic strokes and the hemorrhagic stroke. But, some good news, drinking small to moderate amounts of alcohol may help prevent these strokes from occurring and lower your blood’s inclination to clot.
 
  • Regularly exercise
Practicing regular exercises such as walking, jogging or swimming for 30 minutes, if possible, everyday for a week has been shown to lower blood pressure, and helps to improve your health including the blood vessels and the heart. It can also help you lose weight and control diabetes, which are also factors that influence strokes.
 
  • Have a healthy diet
The best way to avoid suffering from a stroke is to eat a whole food, plant-based diet centered around vegetables, lentils, beans, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and nuts. One reason why plant-based diets protect against stroke is due to the fiber found in whole plant foods. Plant foods are also filled with antioxidants. Antioxidant-packed foods help reduce inflammation and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, and they also improve blood flow.

 

Image Source: Stroke Connection Magazine - American Stroke Association

 Treatment

 
If you’re having a stroke, it’s critical that you get medical attention right away. Immediate treatment may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Thanks to recent technological advances, stroke treatments and survival rates have improved greatly over the last decade. According to the stroke organization, there are several ways that strokes can be treated depending on the kind of stroke that occurs. 
 
Some ischemic strokes are treated with small mechanical devices that remove or break up blood clots. If clot-busting drugs are ruled out, another option is approved mechanical devices. A surgeon inserts a small mechanical device into the blocked artery using a thin tube. Once inside, the tool traps the clot, and either breaks it up or the surgeon pulls it out of the brain, reopening the blocked blood vessel in the process.
 
A hemorrhagic stroke (sometimes called a bleed) occurs if an artery in your brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The first steps in treating a hemorrhagic stroke are to find the cause of bleeding in the brain and then control it. Some of the options for treatments include surgical clips or coils inserted in aneurisms (weaknesses in the blood vessel wall), controlling high blood pressure, and surgery to remove the bleeding vessel and blood that has spilled into the brain.
 
For more information and resources, you may seek the National Stroke Association of Malaysia at www.nasam.org or you may call them at +608-826-1568. They can also be found at National Stroke Association Malaysia on Facebook.
 
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 

 

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