Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health
Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health

Stroke

What is a stroke?

Quick test for a stroke

Symptoms of a stroke

Silent stroke

Risk factors for strokes

Causes of a stroke

Immediate treatment for a stroke

Prevention / remedies for strokes

References

What is a stroke?

A stroke (cerebrovascular accident or CVA) is the rapid loss of brain function due to a disruption of the blood supply to the brain. This lack of blood flow (ischemia) can be caused by:

A stroke is a medical emergency that can cause permanent brain damage or death.

Strokes are the second leading cause of death worldwide, (5) after heart disease and before cancer.

Quick test for a stroke

Sometimes it is difficult to tell if someone has had a stroke or not. Here is a simple test for a stroke:

If they have difficulty with any of these tasks, get emergency medical advice.

Symptoms of a stroke

Stroke symptoms usually start within seconds or minutes. The symptoms can vary widely, depending on the part of the brain affected. Sometimes there are no symptoms (see silent stroke).

Silent stroke

A silent stroke has no outward symptoms, and the person is typically unaware that they have suffered a stroke. Silent strokes are estimated to occur at five times the rate of symptomatic strokes. (1,2) The risk of silent stroke increases with age, but may also affect younger adults and children, especially those with acute anemia. (1,3)

Risk factors for strokes

Causes of stroke

The blockage of a blood vessel (vein or artery) by an embolus (a travelling particle or debris). The most common blockage is an atherosclerotic plaque. Other types of blockages can include a lump of fat, some bone marrow or broken bone, air, a cancerous tumour or clump of bacteria.

The cause of atherosclerotic plaques is chronic (continual) inflammation - simply your body's natural defence to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus.

Sickle-cell anemia can cause blood cells to clump up and block blood vessels, and can also lead to stroke.

Immediate treatment for a stroke

It is essential to get urgent treatment within minutes or hours of a stroke - the sooner the treatment starts, the better the outcome. In hospital, the blockage will either be broken down / dissolved with a "clot buster" (thrombolysis), or removed / repaired with surgery.

Stroke rehabilitation to recover lost brain function. Physiotherapists; speech, language, occupational and other physical therapists need to be involved immediately and extensively. The brain is highly plastic, and the sooner rehabilitation starts, the better the outcome. Continual rehabilitation at the limit of the person's ability pays dividends over the following weeks and months. Most return of function is seen in the first few months, though some people continue to improve for years, regaining and strengthening abilities like writing, walking, running, and talking. Continuing exercise and social interaction are essential.

Prevention / remedies for strokes

References

1. Herderschee D, Hijdra A, Algra A, Koudstaal PJ, Kappelle LJ, van Gijn J. Silent stroke in patients with transient ischemic attack or minor ischemic stroke. The Dutch TIA Trial Study Group. September 1992, Stroke 23 (9): 1220-4. PMID 1519274.

2. Leary MC, Saver JL. Annual incidence of first silent stroke in the United States: a preliminary estimate. 2003, Cerebrovasc. Dis. 16 (3): 280-5. PMID 12865617.

3. Vermeer SE, Koudstaal PJ, Oudkerk M, Hofman A, Breteler MM. Prevalence and risk factors of silent brain infarcts in the population-based Rotterdam Scan Study. January 2002, Stroke 33 (1): 21-5. PMID 11779883.

4. Whisnant JP. Effectiveness versus efficacy of treatment of hypertension for stroke prevention. 1996, Neurology 46 (2): 301-7. PMID 8614485.

5. Mathers, CD; Boerma, T; Ma Fat, D. Global and regional causes of death. 2009, British medical bulletin 92: 7-32. PMID 19776034.

6. Anoop S V Shah, Kuan Ken Lee, David A McAllister, Amanda Hunter, Harish Nair, William Whiteley, Jeremy P Langrish, David E Newby, Nicholas L Mills. Short term exposure to air pollution and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2015;350:h1295, Published 24 March 2015.

7. Melinda C Power, Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, Jaime E Hart, Olivia I Okereke, Francine Laden, Marc G Weisskopf. The relation between past exposure to fine particulate air pollution and prevalent anxiety: observational cohort study. BMJ 2015;350:h1111, Published 24 March 2015.

8. Matthew P. Pase, Jayandra J. Himali, Alexa S. Beiser, Hugo J. Aparicio, Claudia L. Satizabal, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Sudha Seshadri, Paul F. Jacques. Sugar and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia. Stroke. 2017;STROKEAHA.116.016027. Published 20 April 2017.