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Stroke - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

In India, stroke is the reason behind one-third of all deaths (0.8 million) caused due to heart disease. Learn more.

strokePeople suffer from a stroke when a part of their stops receiving blood supply. Within a few minutes, their brain cells begin to die and this could result in a long-term dysfunction of the body part controlled by the affected area. In India, stroke is the reason behind one-third of all deaths (0.8 million) caused due to heart disease. Unfortunately, the awareness about this disease is low and it often goes ignored despite the dangers associated with it. In this post, we'll tell you everything you need to know about the deadly disease.

Types of stroke

There are two main types of stroke, ischemic stroke and haemorrhagic stroke.

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Ischemic stroke: This type of stroke is caused due to a block (blood clot) in the blood vessel. These blocks are caused by internal hardening of the arteries leading to the brain or clogging of arteries within the brain.

Haemorrhagic stroke: This type of stroke is more dangerous and has a higher death rate than haemorrhagic strokes. It is caused when bleeding occurs due to a tear in the blood vessel. This tear may be triggered by injury, excessive alcohol, lack of exercise, smoking and even some drugs like warfarin. Bleeding can occur either within the brain or in between the brain and inside of the skull. (Read: Stroke a reality check for young India)

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Causes

Some of the causes that can lead to a stroke are as follows:

  1. Ageing
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Diabetes
  4. Cardiovascular diseases
  5. High cholesterol
  6. Obesity
  7. Vitamin B12 deficiency
  8. Excessive alcohol and drug abuse

Symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms associated with stroke are:

  1. Numbness
  2. Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  3. Sudden confusion
  4. Severe headache
  5. Trouble in speaking, understanding, seeing and walking
  6. Dizziness or loss of balance

If you see a person acting abnormally, use the FAST test to find out if it's a stroke.

  1. F (Facial weakness) See if the person can smile and notice if his eyes or face are drooping to one side.
  2. A (Arm weakness) See if the person can move and raise his/her arms.
  3. S (Speech difficulty) See if the person can speak properly without slurring his/her words.
  4. T (Time to act) With stroke, time is of paramount importance. Call an ambulance if you notice these symptoms. (Read: Would you recognize a stroke if you saw someone having one?)

Diagnosis

Stroke is diagnosed using imaging tests such as CT or MRI scan, along with a clinical examination. An electroencephalography (EEG) test is conducted to determine the possibility of seizures.

Treatment

The severity of a stroke and the presence of other risk factors determine what treatment a patient has to undergo. Here are some ways in which it is treated:

  • Lifestyle changes

If a person has suffered from a stroke, he/she may have to make major lifestyle changes like giving up smoking and alcohol, not eating foods high in fat and sugar and exercising regularly.

  • Medications

Certain medicines are prescribed to some patients to reduce the risk of blood clot formation. Some of them are antiplatelet drugs like aspirin and anticoagulants like warfarin.

  • Surgery

In cases where the stroke is severe, surgery might be required to resume normal blood flow. Surgeries are performed to unblock the artery (angioplasty) or prevent bleeding in the brain (craniotomy).

  • Physiotherapy

Often, the patient has to undergo physiotherapy to resume daily activities.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension.

Prevention

By now, you would have realised that stroke is a dangerous disease and certainly not something you'd like to experience in your life. In order to keep stroke at bay, here are some tips that you can follow.

  • Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly can help prevent stroke. According to a study conducted on 40,000 women over a 12 year period, walking for just 2 hours a week can cut the risk of having a stroke by 30 per cent.

  • Get some sleep, but not too much

Scientists at Harvard claim that compared to 7 hours of sleep, a 10+ hour sleep can increase your chances of having a stroke by 63%! So make sure you set your alarm accordingly.

  • Eat healthy

Healthy eating habits will improve your immunity and keep you fit. Eating fruits and vegetables will reduce your risk of having heart disease and diabetes, and also keep stroke at bay. Research suggests that eating foods rich in potassium may cut your risk of having a stroke by 20%.

  • Don't ignore migraine

Migraines are really painful, and women are prone to it due to hormonal fluctuations and medications. Research has suggested that migraine can lead to a higher stroke risk among women.

  • Pay attention to irregular heartbeats

If you heart beats flutter along with shortness of breath, light headedness and chest pain it could indicate atrial fibrillation (AF) which boosts your chances of having a stroke five-fold.

  • Don't be angry

People who have a short-temper and are quick to be angry are at an increased risk of having a stroke, suggests a study published in the journal Hypertension.

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