A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is reduced or completely blocked. Over 200,000 cases of stroke are reported each year in the United States. This is a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment through an ER or other healthcare provider. Labs and other tests including imaging are used to confirm the diagnosis.
Symptoms can last for years and some may last a lifetime. The three types of stroke include transient ischemic attack, ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Approximately 87 percent of strokes are ischemic.
Without immediate medical treatment, a stroke is often a life-threatening event that can result in death. Since the brain controls various parts of the body systems, stroke symptoms depend on which area of the brain is affected and duration of the event. Causes stem from arterial blood-vessel rupture in the brain or a blood clot that cuts-off the brain's blood-oxygen supply.
Risk Factors of Stroke
There are many risk factors that can lead to stroke with some able to be controlled and others needing medical treatment. Women are at greater risk from stroke, and heart disease and diabetes are common risk factors. Stroke risk factors include:
- Heart Disease or Circulation Issues
- High Blood Pressure
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- Peripheral Artery Disease or Carotid Artery Disease
- High Blood Cholesterol
- Sickle Cell Disease or Anemia
- Family History of Stroke or Heart Disease
- Underlying Thyroid Disease - Increase BP, Pulse & Heart Arrhythmias
Other stroke risk factors include:
- Poor Diet - High Fat, Sugar & Calories
- Age - Increases with Age
- Race - African Americans, Asians & Latinos Higher Risk
- Gender - Women Increased Risk - Birth Control May Be Contributory
- Personal History of TIAs, Stroke, Heart Disease & More
Some risk factors can be controlled with healthy lifestyle changes. Avoid smoking, drug abuse, excessive alcohol use and lose weight. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, follow medical treatment instructions and decrease stress.
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
Stroke symptoms can vary depending on which part of the brain is affected. Guidelines to assess for stroke include following the F.A.S.T. method to quickly spot stroke signs and call 911.
- Analyze if the (F)ace is drooping or feels numb. Is the smile lopsided at all.
- Check to see if an (a)rm is perhaps drooping when the person raises their arms.
- As the person (s)peaks, observe if they are understandable, struggling to find the correct words or slurring words.
- If any of the symptoms occur, then it’s (t)ime to call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
Other potential symptoms include:
- Sudden Onset Confusion - Difficulty Speaking or Hard to Understand Speech
- Sudden Visual Changes - Can Be One Eye or Both
- Sudden Onset Weakness and/or Numbness of Face, Arms, Legs - Could Be One Side
- Sudden Onset Problems Walking - Unsteady, Dizziness, Lack of Coordinated Movements Arms/Legs or Feeling Unbalanced
- Sudden Severe Headache
Treatment and Recovery
The treatment for stroke will largely depend on how quickly the patient gets medical help and which type of stroke occurred. The most common ischemic stroke IV therapy of medication. It must be given within 3 hours of when stroke symptoms first began. However, it can be administered up to 4 1/2 hours of onset in some cases.
First, a hemorrhagic stroke needs to be ruled out, as some medications can make this condition worse.
Hemorrhagic strokes have fewer treatment options. These include BP management, surgery for clot removal or draining blood to decrease pressure, surgical clipping, endovascular coiling or correction of blood vessel abnormality.
All strokes will usually require extensive rehabilitation including speech, physical and occupational therapies depending on symptomatology.