Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Stroke

strokeStrokes, or brain attacks, are a major cause of death and permanent disability. They occur when blood flow to a region of the brain is obstructed and may result in death of brain tissue. Depending on which part of the brain has poor blood supply, a stroke can be mild to severe. It can happen when a blood clot blocks an artery in the brain. A stroke also can happen when the wall of an artery bursts. It is a medical emergency.

Prompt treatment of a stroke could mean the difference between life and death. Early treatment can also minimize damage to your brain and potential disability.

Symptoms

Symptoms of stroke depend on the type and which area of the brain is affected. Symptoms include the following:

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech 
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness 
  • Numbness, paralysis, or weakness, usually on one side of the body 
  • Severe headache with no known cause 
  • Sudden confusion 
  • Sudden decrease in the level of consciousness 
  • Sudden loss of balance or coordination 
  • Sudden vision problems, such as blurry vision, blindness in one eye.
  • Vomiting

Key factors

In most of the cases a stroke gives no warning. Many factors can increase your risk of a stroke. A number of these factors can also increase your chances of having a heart attack. They include:

  • Increasing age.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension). 
  • Undesirable levels of blood cholesterol. 
  • Cigarette smoking. 
  • Heavy alcohol use 
  • Diabetes. 
  • Obesity. 
  • Previous stroke 
  • Use of birth control pills and hormone therapy.

Stroke hazards

The after-effects of a stroke may range from mild to severe. The most severe effect of a stroke is temporary or permanent paralysis caused by an impairment of the nervous and muscular systems. The majority of stroke patients suffer partial or total paralysis on one side; this usually lasts for 3-6 months. Most stroke patients will need help dressing, bathing and eating for up to 6 months after the stroke

Treatment

If the reason for your stroke is blockage of a blood vessel the best treatment is possible within 3 hours of the stroke episode, so one must rush to the hospital as soon as symptoms develop which will help the doctors give the best and the most effective treatment possible.

If the stroke is due to an artery busting then it could be surgically removed.

Once a patient’s condition has settled, intensive treatment from a physiotherapist will be required to improve mobility and speech. The underlying cause of the stroke, such as high blood pressure will need to be found and then treated. You may have an ECG to ensure your heart function is normal.

Preventive tips

Prevention is better than cure.

  • Control high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Lower your cholesterol 
  • Quit smoking 
  • Control diabetes. 
  • Say hello to a healthy weight. 
  • Regular exercise. 
  • Keep stress at bay 
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. 
  • Get rid of illicit drugs. 
  • Follow a healthy low fat diet with enough fruits and vegetables, soluble fiber, calcium, minerals, etc.

Dr. Manjari Tripathi, Associate Professor, Department of Neurology–AIIMS

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Category: Seniors / Stroke
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