By: Lenore DiPieto
A stroke occurs when blood supply to your brain in interrupted, depriving the brain tissue of oxygen. Within minutes, the brain cells begin to die.
A stroke is a medical emergency, requiring immediate medical attention to minimize damage and complications. The good news is that strokes can be treated and prevented, and many fewer people die of strokes now than even 15 years ago.
Symptoms may include: Trouble with walking; Trouble speaking or understanding; Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of your body. (Try to raise both arms over your head at the same time). Similarly, one side of your mouth may droop and/or trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
Remember the acronym: FAST
F – Face: smile; does one side of your face droop?
A – Arms: raise both arms; does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech; repeat a single phrase. Is speech slurred or strange?
T – Time; call 911 immediately if any of these signs are present. Time equals damage. You’ll need to be treated at a hospital within three hours after your first symptoms appear.
There are various causes for a stroke.
Most are caused by an “ischemic” attack, which means that the arteries to the brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow (ischemia). This usually occurs when a blood clot or a clot formed by other debris in your body (fatty deposits), is swept through the bloodstream and lodges in narrower brain arteries.
Another type of stroke is called hemorrhagic. This occurs when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures. This type may be caused by high blood pressure.
Other types include subarachnoid and intracerebral, where a blood vessel in the brain bursts and spills into the surrounding brain tissue, or into the space between the surface of your brain and your skull.
Mini strokes, also known as transient ischemic attacks (TIA’s), is a brief period of symptoms, similar to those you’d have with a stroke. A temporary decrease in blood supply to part of your brain causes TIAs, which often lasts less than five minutes. TIAs put you at greater risk of a full-blown stroke that could cause permanent damage later.
A fact to be aware of is that the side of your body that is affected, is caused by an interrupted flow of blood to the opposite side of the brain. This has to do with the anatomy hemispheres of the brain.
It is not possible to tell if you’re having a stroke or a TIA based only on your symptoms. Up to half of people whose symptoms appear to go away, actually have had a stroke causing brain damage.
To determine the most appropriate treatment for your stroke, the following will be necessary:
1. Physical examination
2. Blood tests
3. CT Scan – a CT Scan can show a hemorrhage, tumors, strokes and other conditions. It can show lesions on your brain from TIAs you may not even be aware that you ever had.
5. Carotid Ultrasound – this shows any build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) and blood flow in your carotid arteries, which supply blood to your brain
Prevention includes controlling high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, exercising, smoking cessation, controlling diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Your doctor may also recommend a drug called an anticoagulant, to keep blood thinner.
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