Stress and unhealthy lifestyle has made ‘stroke’ a major health concern. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America. Read on to know how the body reacts to a stroke, its causes and prevention.
Dizziness is accompanied by a slight headache and a feeling of weakness. Vision blurs. The mild ache turns into throbbing pain. The mouth is dry. Speech is slurred. This is precisely what happens during a stroke. A stroke is said to have occurred when blood supply to the brain is disrupted. This happens when a blood vessel carrying blood to various parts of the brain is clogged due to a clot, blocking the flow of blood.
If the brain cells or neurons do not get oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood for more than 4 minutes, the cells may die. This is known as cell infarction or death of the brain tissue. The body may react by enlarging other blood vessels to reach blood to that part of the brain which is not receiving blood. However, if the blood supply is not restored quickly, it may cause permanent damage to the brain.
Types of Strokes
- The type of stroke discussed in the previous paragraph, wherein it occurs due to the clogging of blood vessels, is called the ischemic stroke.
- The other type is the hemorrhagic stroke, that occurs when a blood vessel bursts to flood the brain with blood and kills the brain cells. The most common cause for such strokes is high blood pressure.
- The third type is the transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a ‘mini stroke’. Though the effects of this are not as severe as the other two types of strokes, TIAs should not be ignored as they are forewarnings of the other two types of strokes.
A stroke can be identified by the following symptoms.
- Sudden weakness or numbness, specially of one side of the body
- Severe headache
- Sudden dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Loss of balance and disorientation
- Difficulty in comprehending things
The effects of a stroke on the body may be short-term or long-term. These changes depend on whether the left side or the right side of the brain is affected. The severity of the effects is determined by how much of the brain tissue has been damaged and the speed with which other parts of the brain can take over the functions of the damaged tissue.
Some common effects on the body are:
- Weakness or paralysis: This leads to difficulty in walking and/or coordination.
- Cognitive difficulties: This includes memory loss and problems in logical thinking and paying attention.
- Emotional changes: If it is the front part of the brain or the brain stem that has suffered during stroke, an individual may lose control over his emotions. He may have extreme reactions or sudden mood swings. He may become irritable, confused and frustrated. Depression is a very common phenomenon found in patients suffering from stroke.
- Problem with speech and language: This disorder is associated with damage caused to the left hemisphere of the brain. Besides having problems in speaking, an individual may have trouble in understanding, reading and writing too.
- Difficulty in swallowing: Also known as dysphagia, this happens due to weakening of muscles of the mouth and jaw. Severe weakening of these muscles may even lead to choking.
- Loss of Perception: Stroke survivors may lose their ability to see, feel, move or judge distances correctly as they could do before the stroke. They may fail to understand or recognize familiar objects. Inability to judge distances may lead them to meet with accidents.
- Neglecting the affected side: Sometimes stroke survivors fail to see objects kept on the affected side or lose all consciousness of that side. For example, if the right part of an individual’s brain was affected during the stroke, he might miss food kept on the right side or fail to see a person on his right. Such a person may even bang the right side of his body on objects frequently.
Causes and Prevention
Age, sex, genetic makeup and family history contribute to strokes. However, our lifestyle choices and ailments arising due to them like hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases, certain blood disorders, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, using drugs and consumption of alcohol are the major causes of stroke. This is the reason for stroke being a ‘big killer’ in most of the developed countries. Leading a healthy lifestyle, following a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise and carrying out regular medical check ups can reduce the incidence of strokes.
To summarize, as a stroke affects the brain which controls all the functions of our body, it not only brings about physical changes but also causes changes in an individual’s psychological abilities. So, adopting a healthy lifestyle and being alert of the slightest warnings of physical discomfort is the best way to avoid strokes.