Tell us more about brain stroke. What happens to the brain when someone has a stroke?
A stroke is caused by the interruption of the blood supply to the brain, usually because a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a clot. This cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, causing damage to the brain tissue. More than 6 million people die because of stroke each year. Worldwide, cerebrovascular accidents (stroke) are the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability.
Signals from the brain travel through brain stem cells to various parts of the body. When the blood flow to the brain is interrupted, the brain signals also get interrupted further impacting different parts of the body that the signals control causing numbness or paralysis in certain parts of the body.
What are the reasons behind strokes?
There are two types of stroke, ischemic stroke which is caused by a blood clot in the artery supplying blood to the brain and hemorrhagic stroke, caused by bursting of a blood vessel resulting in blood to pool and create pressure around the brain. In both these types of stroke, hypertension is common risk factor. Apart from hypertension, Diabetes mellitus, smoking, dyslipidemia, obesity, low level of physical activity are known to predispose to ischemic stroke. Sometimes defects in wall of blood vessels in brain which are right since birth can predispose people to certain types of hemorrhagic strokes. Congenital defects in heart, abnormalities of heart valves, and abnormalities of rhythm of heart can also predispose a person to ischemic stroke. People on blood thinning medications for unrelated reason can get brain hemorrhage due to excessive thinning of blood.
Who is at risk for a Stroke? Any potential age group?
Anybody can have a stroke although the risk increases with age. People with a family history of stroke and those over 65 years of age are at a greater risk of having a stroke. Smoking, age, gender and conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can also increase the risk of stroke.
Drug abuse and excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy dietary practices and obesity are also risk factors for stroke.
How do you diagnose a brain stroke?
A stroke is diagnosed based on the symptoms experienced. The doctor will examine the individual in order to understand the type of stroke, its causes and the part of the brain that has been affected.
CT Scan of the brain is the quickest test to differentiate between ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. In order to understand a stroke, the doctor may recommend blood tests, because low blood sugar levels mimic the symptoms of a stroke. Echocardiogram and Electrocardiogram tests will be recommended in order to check how well the heart is functioning and any heart disorders, respectively. An MRI, Angiography and Cartoid ultrasound are also tests that help investigate the causes of stroke.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom of a stroke is sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, most often on one side of the body. Other symptoms include: confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech; difficulty seeing with one or both eyes; difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; severe headache.
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