World Stroke Day: Signs, Causes, Treatment

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Stroke is the most commonly heard reason of mortality in India after road accidents. It is a condition where the brain does not receive enough oxygen or nutrients, causing brain cells to die. Researches show that India will report almost 1.6 million cases of stroke annually by 2020 out of which one third would be disabled.

This causes the part of the body, that the injured brain controls, to stop working. This loss of blood supply can be ischemic because of lack of blood flow, or hemorrhagic because of bleeding into brain tissue. A stroke is a medical emergency because strokes can lead to death or permanent disability.

signs or symptoms?

There may be no warning signs of a stroke until it actually occurs. You might be having symptoms that may warn you that you might be about to have a stroke. General symptoms of a stroke, according to Dr Walia Murshida Huda, Senior Medical Officer, Healthians, MBBS, MBA (H.C.A), FICM, include FAST, i.e:

– Face: Does the face droop on one side when the person tries to smile?- Arms: Is one arm lower when the person tries to raise both arms?
– Speech: Can the person repeat a simple sentence? Is speech slurred or hard to understand?
– Time: During a stroke every minute counts. If you observe any of these signs, call your local emergency number immediately.

A stroke patient’s face droops on one side when the person tries to smile. (Shutterstock)
Other symptoms of a stroke include:

All strokes involve symptoms that relate to impairment of nerve function. A patient might complain of confusion, changes in the level of consciousness, vertigo, headache, nausea and vomiting. Nausea sometimes accompanies a stroke, particularly when the stroke involves bleeding inside the brain.

The symptoms typically arise suddenly and most commonly occur on one side of the body as the brain controls the ipsilateral part of the body, i.e. brain lobes control opposite parts of the body. Example, a right brain stroke would make the left side of the body weak.

Depending on the part of the brain where the stroke has occurred, be it ischemic or hemorrhagic the effect would be seen in the body. The brain controls different functions of the body like speaking, hearing, listening other than the motor functions.

Who is at a higher risk of stroke?

Many factors can increase your risk of a stroke. Some factors can also increase your chances of having a heart attack. Potentially treatable stroke risk factors include: Being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, heavy or binge drinking, and use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

Some of the medical risk factors are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, high cholesterol, diabetes, obstructive sleep, and cardiovascular disease.
Other factors associated with a higher risk of stroke include personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack, and being age 55 or older. Men have a higher risk of stroke than women.

What to do if you feel FAST with a patient?

Time is the key to recovery in a stroke patient. If you feel someone around you has symptoms of stroke, the patient should be rushed to a hospital in emergency services. If during the initial phase of the attack the treatment is given, maximum number of brain cells could be prevented from dying as death of brain cell is an irreversible process. The damage which has been caused by the death of brain cells cannot be recovered.

The following things can be done other than taking him/her to the hospital:

– Make the patient lie on one side with their head slightly raised and supported in case they vomit.
– Check to see if they’re breathing. If they’re not breathing at all, perform Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation. If they’re having difficulty breathing, loosen any constrictive clothing.
– Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
– If the person is showing any weakness in a limb, avoid moving them.
– You yourself need to be calm and patient to tell and brief the doctor about the event.

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