A stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain either becomes blocked (Ischemic) or begins bleeding (Hemorrhagic), both of which can cause severe damage to the brain and even death.
It is also very preventable with exercise, watching salt intake and keeping your weight at a healthy level.
A stroke can happen to anyone at anytime, and if it does not kill you, it might cause serious physical and mental damage like paralysis, difficulty thinking or understanding others, and blindness.
Types of Stroke
There are two major types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.
Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This may happen in two ways:
- A clot may form in an artery that is already very narrow. This is called a thrombotic stroke.
- A clot may break off from another place in the blood vessels of the brain, or from some other part of the body, and travel up to the brain. This is called cerebral embolism, or an embolic stroke.
Ischemic strokes may be caused by clogged arteries. Fat, cholesterol, and other substances collect on the artery walls, forming a sticky substance called plaque.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain. Some people have defects in the blood vessels of the brain that make this more likely.
Causes of stroke
Blockage of an artery – The blockage of an artery in the brain by a clot (thrombosis) is the most common cause of a stroke. The part of the brain that is supplied by the clotted blood vessel is then deprived of blood and oxygen. As a result of the deprived blood and oxygen, the cells of that part of the brain die and the part of the body that it controls stops working.
Embolic stroke – Another type of stroke may occur when a blood clot or a piece of atherosclerotic plaque (cholesterol and calcium deposits on the wall of the inside of the heart or artery) breaks loose, travels through the bloodstream and lodges in an artery in the brain. When blood flow stops, brain cells do not receive the oxygen and glucose they require to function and a stroke occurs.
Cerebral hemorrhage – A cerebral hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage – In a subarachnoid hemorrhage, blood accumulates in the space beneath the arachnoid membrane that lines the brain. The blood originates from an abnormal blood vessel that leaks or ruptures.
Vasculitis – A condition in which the blood vessels become inflamed causing decreased blood flow to brain tissue.
According to The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), these are the five major signs of stroke:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. The loss of voluntary movement and/or sensation may be complete or partial. There may an associated tingling sensation in the affected area.
- Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding. Sometimes weakness in the muscles of the face can cause drooling.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizzyness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Women may report unique stroke symptoms:
- sudden face and limb pain
- sudden hiccups
- sudden nausea
- sudden general weakness
- sudden chest pain
- sudden shortness of breath
- sudden palpitations
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test:
FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call an ambulance immediately.
- Keep your blood pressure in the normal range.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Keep your blood sugar in the normal range.
- Keep your cholesterol levels in the normal range.