What is a Stroke?

Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA), more commonly known as stroke, is the third leading cause of death and disability among adults in Europe and the United States with statistics showing one occurring every 45 seconds and causing death every 3 minutes.

However frightening the figures are, strokes can be prevented. Living a healthy lifestyle and going for regular medical check ups are keys to reducing the possiblity of strokes. Unlike other medical conditions, stroke has easily recognizable symptoms, which if noticed immediately, will give a person ample time to call for help.

What is a Stroke?
Stroke’s medical name is Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA) and is also loosely called “brain attack”. It is a cardiovascular disease that affects the blood vessels and arteries which transport oxygen and other essential nutrients to the brain. A stroke occurs when one of these blood vessels bursts thus cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain. Prolonged loss of oxygen will cause the brain cells to die and will, in turn, result to brain damage.

Effects of Stroke
The effects of a stroke varies depending on which area of the brain was most affected. Strokes that occur at the back of the brain impair one’s vision. Strokes that hits the right half of the brain affect the bodily functions on a person’s left side. His body may be partially (or completely) paralyzed; may have intermittent bursts of quick movements and most likely will have memory loss.

Strokes affecting the left half of the brain, will cause impair the functions of the right half of the body. Again, partial (or complete) paralysis may occur, together with speech difficulties and slower body movements. As with any injury that affect the brain, memory loss may also be experienced.

Symptoms of Stroke
Strokes can be easily diagnosed. An attack may be iminent when one or several of the following symptoms become apparent:

– numbness or weakness of the face or extremities (legs/arms)
– sudden confusion, difficulty in speaking or understanding messages
– sudden difficulty in seeing with one or both eyes
– difficulty in walking, loss of balance or dizziness
– sudden severe headaches

When these physical conditions are felt, it would be best to call for help.

To minimise the devastating effects of strokes, experts have developed guidelines that aim to help everyone recognize stroke symptoms when these are exhibited by others. Aptly called “Act FAST”, these tips not only bolster the need for urgency, but also remind others how to physically find out if someone is experiencing a stroke. By using Act FAST , one much check the person’s:

Face – Can the person smile properly? Is the smile balanced or lopsided? Does one side of the face droop upon smiling?

Arms – Can the person raise both arms to his side or even above his head? Does one arm drift downwards without his knowing?

Speech – Can the person speak without slurring ? Can he repeat a simple sentence?

Time – If one or more of the F.A.S. symptoms are evident, it is most likely that the person has or is experiencing a stroke. It is important that he be brought to a medical practitioner immediately to prevent any further damage to his brain.

Stroke Prevention
To reduce the incidence of stroke and lower the risk of experiencing one, medical practitioners recommend the following perventive measures:

1. Monitor your blood pressure
2. Check to see if you have arterial fibrillation
3. Stop smoking
4. Stop drinking alcohol (limit intake)
5. Maintain good cholesterol levels
6. Find out if you suffer from diabetes
7. Exercise regularly
8. Reduce salt and fat in your diet
9. Check to see if you have good blood circulation, and
10. Be aware of the symptoms of this ailment.

Are strokes experienced only by older people?
No, strokes can affect anyone of any age, gender or cultural background. Strokes seem to be more predominant among older people probably because the medical conditions that may trigger a stroke only become prevalent in the later years. According to researches, more than 2/3 of stroke victims are over the age of 65.

What is a Hemorrhagic Stroke?
It is a stroke that is caused by a rupture in a blood vessel in the brain which may cause scarring of the brain tissues that may lead to seizures. About 20% of all recorded strokes are Hemorraghic Strokes.

What is an Ischemic Stroke?
Ischemic Strokes occur when the brain cells are deprived of blood, oxygen and sugar due to a blocked artery. 80% of reported strokes are Ischemic .

Can someone who has had a stroke still recover physically?
A person’s rate of physical recovery will depend on a lot of factors, primarily the amount of damage done on the brain.

How long is the recovery period of a person who has had a stroke?
Recovery periods vary. Big improvements may be noticed in the first few months, then progress may plateau, afterwards, the patient may see gradual improvements over the next 1 to 2 years. A person’s recovery period will depend on the therapies prescribed by his doctor and how actively he chooses to participate in these.

Arterial Fibrillation – a medical condition common among older people. This is characterized by irregular beating of the heart and may be due to a blood clot.

Artery – muscular tubes that carry blood and oxygen from the heart to different parts of the body

Blood Vessels – tubes that transport blood and oxygen from the heart to different parts of the body. The three kinds of blood vessels in decreasing size are arteries, veins and capillaries.

Brain – a muscle of the central nervous system which is divided into the left and the right hemispheres. It controls, regulates and coordinates all bodily functions.

Cerebrovascular – medical term for activities that relate to the blood vessels in the brain

Cholesterol – a fatty substance that is manufactured by the liver and can also be consumed through diet. Researches show that high levels of cholesterol in the body may lead to various health problems.

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