A stroke is a serious medical condition that causes your brain to suddenly stop functioning. Affecting men and women of all ages, strokes happen when the blood flow that is supplying your brain with necessary oxygen and nutrients is somehow interrupted. As a result, the neurons that make up your brain and allow it to function die, causing parts of your brain to die too. A stroke can have widespread affects on the way a person functions physically, mentally, and emotionally. When severe, a stroke can even result in death.
Types of Stroke
There are t
wo main types of stroke:
An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is prevented by a blood clot. This is the most common type of stroke, accounting for more than 80% of all cases, and is often a direct result of plaque buildup in the arteries. An ischemic stroke can be:
- thrombic (when a blood clot forms inside the brain)
- embolic (when a blood clot forms elsewhere in the body and then travels to the brain)
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel inside the brain ruptures, causing uncontrolled bleeding within the brain. This interrupts blood flow to vital areas of the brain, causing brain cells to flood and die. This type of stroke is much less common, accounting for only 20% of all cases. Hemorrhagic strokes are often the result of blood vessel malformations or aneurysms. A hemorrhagic stroke can be:
- subarachnoid (in which a blood vessel on the surface of the brain ruptures)
- intracerebral (in which a blood vessel deep inside the brain ruptures)
Who's At Risk for A Stroke?
Unfortunately, strokes are becoming more and more common as the years progress. In fact, more than 700,000 American men and women suffer from strokes every year, and 157,000 of these patients die as a result. Though any man or woman can be affected by a stroke, certain risk factors are known to greatly contribute to your risk of developing this disease. Some of these risk factors aren't preventable, including:
- age (the older you are, the more increased your risk of stroke)
- family background (if you have a family history of stroke, you are at increased risk)
- gender (if you are male you are at increased risk of having a stroke)
However, a large majority of the risk factors for stroke are preventable. These risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is the single greatest risk factor for developing a stroke.
- Cigarette Smoking: Cigarette smoking increases your risk of stroke as it damages the lining of your blood vessels, contributing to blood clot risk.
- Heart Disease: If you have high cholesterol or plaque buildup in your arteries you are at increased risk for developing a stroke.
- Being Inactive or Obese: If you do not follow a fitness routine or are significantly overweight or obese, you are also at increased risk for having a stroke.
Signs of Stroke
Most strokes are preceded by certain symptoms. These stroke symptoms may include:
- sudden weakness in the legs, arms, or face
- difficulty speaking or communicating with another person
- difficulty walking or staying coordinated
- severe headache
- loss of vision in one or both eyes
Effects of A Stroke
Everyone who suffers from a stroke experiences different effects as a result of their illness. Depending upon the type of stroke and location of the stroke within the brain, different bodily systems can be affected. A stroke can be mild, causing relatively few complications, or a stroke can be quite severe, causing numerous complications. Strokes often affect:
- Emotions: Strokes can alter the way in which your brain experiences emotions. You may find yourself crying very easily or laughing uncontrollably. Many stroke sufferers experience frequent mood swings.
- Perception: If you have a stroke, it could affect the way in which you touch, see, hear, and think about things. You may not recognize those that are familiar to you, or you may see everyday objects differently than you did before.
- Memory: Strokes often affect both short-term and long-term memory.
- Speech: Men and women who have suffered a stroke often have difficulty understanding speech or expressing exactly what it is they want to say. You may also have difficulty controlling the muscles needed to form sounds and words.
- Movement: Many stroke sufferers develop paralysis in an arm or leg.
Preventing a Stroke
Unfortunately, when a stroke happens there is no way of treating the condition. This makes prevention the only way to manage stroke effectively. People who have suffered from previous strokes and those who are at high risk of suffering from a future stroke may want to investigate the following medications and procedures:
- anticoagulants (to thin the blood and prevent blood clotting)
- endovascular surgery (during which a coil is place inside of a brain vessel in order to prevent rupture)
- angioplasty (this procedure uses a small balloon to unclog arteries in the heart)
- carotid endarterectomy (a surgical procedure which removes blockages inside of blood vessels)
You can also reduce your risk by changing certain lifestyle factors:
- eat a healthy diet, high in grains and low in saturated fats
- exercise on a daily basis
- quit smoking
- seek treatment for high cholesterol and high blood pressure