A stroke results when the supply of blood to the brain gets disrupted, which in turn, can cause the death of the brain cells due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Strokes are mainly classified into two types - ischemic and hemorrhagic. The way in which different types of strokes occur can vary, but all of them result when the supply of blood to the brain is interrupted. This can cause permanent neurological damage and even death, if not treated immediately. This is the reason why it is considered a medical emergency.
Causes and Risk Factors
As mentioned already, strokes can be of two types - ischemic and hemorrhagic. When a stroke is caused by the interruption in the supply of blood to the brain, it is called an ischemic stroke. On the other hand, a stroke caused by the rupture of the blood vessels in the brain, is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic strokes are more common than hemorrhagic strokes.
An ischemic stroke is usually caused when a blood clot or 'thrombus' blocks the artery that carries blood to the brain. This type of ischemic stroke is called thrombotic stroke. The blood clot may form in the brain artery, or it can form somewhere else and then enter the brain artery through the bloodstream. Such a free-floating blood clot is called 'embolus', and the stroke caused by this type of blood clot is known as an embolic stroke.
An ischemic stroke can also occur as a result of the narrowing of the arteries due to plaque formation. This can happen due to the accumulation of fatty deposits inside the arterial wall. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. The hemorrhagic stroke, on the other hand, is caused by the rupture or leakage of a blood vessel in the brain. It can be a consequence of uncontrolled high blood pressure. It can also occur due to the formation of an abnormal bulging structure in the artery, which is known as an aneurysm. An aneurysm can occur due to the weakening of the arterial wall.
Several factors can raise the risk of this condition. Some of the important risk factors for this condition are, uncontrolled high blood pressure, brain aneurysms, a high level of cholesterol in the body, diabetes, a family history of strokes, smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive consumption of alcohol, cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, and the use of illegal drugs. The risk can further increase with advancing age, though young people can also get a stroke.
Signs of a Stroke
- Sudden numbness that typically affects one side of the body
- Blurred vision
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Slurred speech
- Severe headache
- Problems in walking
Sometimes, a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack can be a sign of an impending stroke. The symptoms of a transient ischemic attack are similar to the symptoms of a stroke, but they usually last for a brief period. A mini stroke is caused by the reduced supply of blood to the brain. If you observe the symptoms of this condition, then get it properly evaluated with the help of your physician.
The treatment mainly depends on the specific type of the stroke. If it is an ischemic stroke, then treatment is aimed towards restoration of the normal supply of blood to the brain. Physicians can use drugs like aspirin, or consider the intravenous administration of tissue plasminogen activator, after evaluating the condition.
Along with these medications, a physician can opt for mechanical clot removal, or use a catheter to deliver tissue plasminogen activator directly to the brain through an artery in the groin area. For treating a hemorrhagic stroke, physicians usually try to stop the bleeding and reduce the pressure in the brain. Surgical procedures can be required, if the bleeding is too severe. Surgery may be required for repairing certain abnormalities of the blood vessels that can be associated with hemorrhagic strokes.
It is possible to prevent this condition by controlling blood pressure and making a few lifestyle and dietary changes. One can reduce the risk of a stroke with regular physical activity, and by following a diet low in cholesterol. A healthy and balanced diet that contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is ideal for people who have an increased risk of developing strokes. Also important is to avoid the excessive consumption of alcohol, quit smoking, control the level of blood sugar, and maintain an ideal body weight.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.