Cerebrovascular disease is a disease associated to a blood vessel dysfunction in the brain. This is a serious disease responsible for disabling scores of people across the globe.
This disease is the most common cause of cognitive impairment after Alzheimer’s disease, and is one of the leading causes of disability in older Americans. A study conducted by the WHO in 2001, revealed that 5.5 million deaths across the globe were caused due to cerebrovascular diseases. Although this disease occurs mostly in the elderly, it is also seen to occur in young and middle-aged people.
What is a Cerebrovascular Disease?
Cerebrovascular disease is a general term encompassing different conditions affecting the vascular system of the brain. Any disease affecting the functioning of blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, is referred to as a cerebrovascular disease. Such diseases occur when the arteries carrying oxygenated blood to the brain get damaged or blocked due to plaque deposition. The blockage can restrict blood flow, thereby, depriving the brain of crucial oxygen supply. This in turn results in a stroke.
Atherosclerosis is a common cerebrovascular disorder, wherein, fat deposits on the arterial walls conduce to narrowing of arterial width, and result in blockage of arteries and strokes. It can also be caused due to the rupture of arteries, wherein, bleeding takes place either in the brain tissue (cerebral hemorrhage) or is confined to the coverings of the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage). Then lesions, occlusion of lumen by a blood clots, embolus or weakness of the blood vessels in the brain which can conduce to ballooning of the arteries, also come under cerebrovascular disorders.
Ischemic Stroke: Blocking or narrowing down of the arteries, due to deposition of fat on the arterial walls can lead to two types of clots, one which remains put in the brain (cerebral thrombus), while the other travels via the bloodstream and enters the brain (cerebral Embolism). Blood clots can be caused due to dysfunctional heart valves, mechanical heart valves, irregular heart beats, etc.
Hemorrhagic Stroke: The second category of disease involves the weakening of the arteries and finally their rupture, leading to bleeding in the brain. This bleeding damages the brain cells.
Transient Ischemic Attack: This type is caused by temporary blockage of an artery, however, is not associated with any permanent damage.
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a major cause of cerebral disease, because it damages the lining of the blood vessels, and also brings about a change in the arterial makeup. Over a period of time, the arteries become narrow and stiff. Smoking, obesity, diabetes, high alcohol consumption, high cholesterol levels, etc., are also other risk factors leading to cerebrovascular diseases.
The symptoms seen and experienced will depend on the area and extent of damage caused to the brain.
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Memory loss
- Weakness in leg, arm, or one side of the face.
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe headache
- Mental changes like forgetfulness, confusion.
- Inability to plan and organize activities
- Difficulty in speaking and expressing opinions
- Difficulty in reading and writing
- Mood swings
- Vision problems
As far as reversing the damage is concerned, there is no treatment available. However, certain medication can help prevent the occurrence of strokes. To prevent blood clot formation, blood platelet inhibitors are available that help reduce the risk of stroke incidence. To remove plaque buildup and prevent blocking of the carotid artery, there is a surgical procedure called carotid endarterectomy. In this surgery, the plaque is removed using a dissecting tool, thereby, restoring the blood flow in the carotid artery. Carotid angioplasty and stenting is also used to prevent blockage in the blood vessels.
Although we cannot stop a stroke per say, taking certain precautions can help reduce its risk. By controlling one’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, etc., and leading a healthy lifestyle, one can attenuate the risk of a stroke. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.