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Neurological Health

What You Need to Know About A Stroke

Ever heard of a brain attack? Known as a stroke, it’s a serious matter. But the good news is that knowing how to identify its symptoms makes all the difference while saving a life.

Jun 6, 2024

4 min read

Written by Dr Linnet Thomas 
Medically Reviewed by 

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A visual where human brain with a lightening is shown

We’ve all heard of a heart attack, but did you know about brain attacks? A brain attack, medically known as a stroke, is not to be confused with a heart attack. In both cases, the blood supply is disrupted, except in a stroke, the blood supply to the brain is suddenly interrupted. 

A stroke needs immediate treatment as it is a serious medical emergency. It can have lasting consequences, such as permanent disability (paralysis) and sometimes even death. It is the second most common cause of death and disability globally.

What are the causes of strokes?

A pictorial representation of the causes of stroke

Strokes occur when something blocks blood vessels to a part of the brain (ischemic stroke) or blood vessels burst inside the brain (hemorrhagic stroke), disrupting the blood supply to the brain cells. Additionally, a temporary blockage, known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or mini-stroke, can serve as a warning sign for future strokes. The blockage is often caused by a piece of plaque or blood clots in circulation.

What puts you at risk for strokes?

Risk factors include:

  1. High blood pressure 
  2. Diabetes
  3. High cholesterol
  4. Cardiovascular diseases 
  5. Obstructive sleep apnea
  6. A family history of strokes
  7. Obesity
  8. Old age
  9. Physical inactivity
  10. Taking birth control pills or hormone therapies
  11. Smoking 
A visual representation of Ischemic stroke vs. Haemorrhagic stroke

How does one reduce the risk of getting strokes?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to decreasing the risk of stroke. This involves following a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, regularly exercising, quitting tobacco use, treating obstructive sleep apnea, and effectively managing diabetes and hypertension.

Is there a way to identify stroke symptoms?

A pictorial representation of symptoms of stroke

Yes, there is.  The primary symptoms of a stroke can be recalled with the acronym BE-FAST.

Balance: Sudden spinning, unsteadiness or a tendency to fall on one side.

Eyes: Sudden loss of vision, blurring of vision, double vision or loss of one-half of the visual field.

Face: Drooping of the face to one side or inability to smile. 

Arms: Inability to lift both arms or numbness in the arms. 

Speech: Slurred speech, trouble speaking, disorientation or confusion. 

Time: If you notice any of the symptoms above, call help immediately. Time is of huge essence as almost 19-20 lakh neurons can suffer irreversible damage during every single minute lost to acute stroke

Other stroke symptoms include dizziness, unusually severe headaches, nausea or vomiting, difficulty with comprehension, and loss of balance or coordination.

How do doctors diagnose a stroke?

After a suspected stroke, a medical professional may conduct several tests to understand what is going on. This may include a series of physical and neurological examinations to evaluate blood sugar, cholesterol, clotting time, and other factors. Additionally, different tests may be conducted to assess blood flow to the brain and pinpoint any abnormalities. In some cases, evaluation is essential to rule out stroke mimics, which can, in fact, be easily reversible conditions.

What are the possible treatments for strokes?

When it comes to strokes, every single minute counts. Timely care is of the utmost importance for stroke patients. Stroke treatments include medications and procedures to help dissolve blood clots, along with medicines and therapy to control brain swelling.

If it's an ischemic stroke, then life-long medications are prescribed to prevent secondary/ repeat stroke events.

What happens after a stroke?

A stroke can have lasting consequences on your body. The severity of these effects is dependent on two factors: the location of the blood flow obstruction in the brain and the extent of the brain tissue affected.

The common effects of stroke include: 

  • Paralysis on the right or left side of the body
  • Vision problems
  • Speech or language problems
  • Memory loss
  • Slow, cautious behaviour

Rehabilitation is crucial for recovering from these effects. Doctors may recommend various forms of therapy to help patients recover from a stroke.  Rehabilitation comprises a comprehensive management plan that includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, vocational rehabilitation, speech and language therapy, swallowing therapy, psychological interventions, cognitive rehabilitation, and much more.

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