May is Stroke Awareness Month ( long read but good for Brain Health😁). 🧠🧠🧠
May is Stroke Awareness Month and this article discusses the causes, risk factors and how Stroke can be prevented. Stroke affects both males and females, and can cause devastating effects on individuals. It is the second biggest cause of serious long term disability worldwide, leading to paralysis or weakness of part of the body, mobility, memory, vision and Speech impairment. Other offshoot problems may be depression, and economic problems both for the individual and his/her family since a breadwinner may be affected.
A stroke can be referred to as a “Brain Attack”. The commonest type involves a blood clot blocking a blood vessel (called an artery) and preventing blood supply to an area of the brain. This results in lack of function of the part of the body controlled by that part of the brain. There are two types of strokes; Ischemic Stroke referred to above – which makes up about 80% of strokes, and the less common one is Hemorrhagic Stroke, which involves the bursting of a weakened artery in the brain; resulting in lack of blood supply and oxygen to a part of the brain. In the Ischemic type, the blood clot may be formed in the vessel and it may break off and block it, or the clot may be formed in the heart in patients who have an irregular heart beat known as Atrial Fibrillation, or from the carotid arteries in the neck.
Symptoms of a Stroke:
The acronym FAST is used to remember the common symptoms: F- Facial drooping; A-Arm weakness; S- Speech difficulties; T- Time to get help. Other symptoms may include loss of vision in one or both eyes, sudden confusion, trouble understanding people talking to you, sudden severe headache, loss of balance, loss of feeling in part of the body, double vision, difficulty walking and loss of consciousness (passing out). There may be several of these present at the same time.
Risk factors for Stroke
Previous stroke or Mini stroke (TIA), Atrial Fibrillation (A. Fib – Irregular heart beat and rate), Hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus, High Cholesterol, Coronary heart disease (blockage of arteries of the heart), Sickle cell disease, blood vessels malformations in the brain, use of oral birth control contraceptives, cocaine use, migraines and stress at work.
How to Prevent a first ischemic stroke (lack of blood supply to due to a clot)
• All the risk factors listed above need to be controlled.
• Hypertension, Diabetes and high Cholesterol need to be controlled with medications, diet and exercise and cessation of smoking.
• Those with Atrial Fibrillation (A. Fib) need a blood thinner to prevent blood clots forming in the heart.
• For those who have had a previous Mini Stroke (have some of the symptoms mentioned above but they resolve within 24 hours), they have to have tests, like blood work, brain scans, ultrasound of the heart and carotid (neck area artery), electrocardiogram (looks at the electrical functioning of the heart and detects A. Fib) and other tests to identify risk factors leading to the mini stroke and treat them, otherwise the individual may end up with a full blown stroke very soon.
Post Stroke Care
After the initial treatment at a hospital, Post stroke care is needed to minimize the long term complications associated with stroke. To address paralysis, speech, mobility, swallowing, vision, memory loss, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, many health care professions may have to be involved. Examples are Physical Therapists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapist, Neurologist, Dietitians, and the Primary Care Doctor.
To prevent a second stroke the individual will need to be on a blood thinner to prevent more clots from forming, and all the risk factors above have to be well controlled. It may take frequent intensive therapy to gain full use of the arm or leg of affected side, and so it’s important to keep appointments. Those who suffer from depression and anger or frustration may need to go on antidepressant or anxiety medication.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasis that each one of us, has to take charge of our OWN health. That means we need to make sure our BP, Blood sugar and Cholesterol are all in the normal ranges. Regular exercise and healthy diet are all part of keeping these important numbers in control.
Let us keep stroke at bay, take charge of your health.
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Dr. Barbara Entsuah MD (Family Medicine Specialist, Author)