Prevent and Recognize the Symptoms of a Stroke

Edited by Debbie, Charmed, Maria Quinney, Marian Raquel F. Roncesvalles and 5 others

The well-famed Dr. Vladmir Hachinski revered the brain as a vital organ in the body but which is also considerably the most delicate amongst all major organ systems. Covering a minute 2 percent of the human body's total weight, the brain holds a pompous ten billion count of nerve cells. Billions of cells are working in synergy to make out every bit and inch of sensation, thought, and movement done in full precision.

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Time is an important factor in brain activity. In fact, once the brain is restricted of its oxygen supply for even a fraction of a minute or a matter of seconds - neural functions can be impaired. More so, if oxygen deprivation goes on far longer than a few minutes (15 minutes or so), brain damage can be deemed irreversible. Once hemorrhagic stroke or "bleeding in the brain" happens, rigorous chemical reactions take into full swing. The brain is flooded with blood due to ruptured blood vessels which kills each and every hem of brain tissue. One of the tell-tale warning signs of stroke is weakness or numbness of the body which can also aggravate to paralysis of both the upper and lower extremities. Typically, only one side of the body is affected or the particular side which is the exact opposite of the affected brain region. Stroke can also disable effective communication in which the individual loses its ability to speak in a normal fashion. Words could be garbled or slurred. It affects a person's speech, movement, perception, auditory, visual, and mental functions altogether. Stroke still ranks as the fourth leading cause of death in the United States alone. Knowing the extent of a stroke would be the biggest ally of medical practitioners to be able to narrow down the treatment options that would fit the specific needs of the patient. A stroke can strike at anytime and the best way to combat any illness is to be prepared for the inevitable. Be proactive and be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke and the ways to turn the tables around towards wellness.

What is a Stroke?

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Once blood circulation to the brain tissues is restricted in some way, it only takes a few minutes for brain cells to disintegrate and die. Stroke happens so fast that many people fail to recognize it's symptoms until it is too late. This is indeed classified as a medical emergency that needs the fastest possible expert response and treatment possible to save a life.

When blood supply to the central nervous system (CNS) or brain is cut off for some reasons, all the major organs, vital system, and bodily functions are consequently impaired. Oxygenated blood supply is needed by the brain for optimal performance. If this is blocked or cut off in one way or another, it could be fatal in a matter of minutes. A stroke is considered a life-threatening medical condition that can lead to other serious health complications if not addressed immediately.

Two Major Types of Stroke

It takes one proactive individual to make a major leap toward wellness. Being prepared and getting as much accurate and up-to-date information would be the first step towards understanding stroke. Do not be intimidated and exhaust as much knowledge as you can. Let it move you further towards deciphering the basics of stroke beyond the medical jargon.

  1. 1
    Ischemic Stroke
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    This is said to be triggered by blockage in blood flow to the brain which is primarily caused by a condition called atherosclerosis or "hardening of the wall arteries" caused primarily by fat buildup that clogs the lining of the blood vessels. This type accounts to roughly around 87% of stroke cases all over the world. Episodes of transient ischemic attacks (TIA) which typically lasts for 15 minutes or even less usually precede this type of stroke which you should watch out for as this gives you bold warning signs that you are in imminent danger of having a stroke. If you get immediate treatment at initial signs of TIA then the possibility of extensive brain damage would be out of the picture. This is further classified into two types which consist of:
    1. Thrombotic Stroke. This is specifically triggered by a "thrombus" or an immovable blood clot that forms in the blood vessels.
    2. Embolic Stroke. Primarily, blood clots would mushroom at other bodily systems which would then find its way stuck in the smaller arterial walls of the brain. A condition coined as "atrial fibrillation" or having irregular is known to precipitate clot formation in the heart which gets its way towards the brain. At a certain point, the blood clot dislodges and joins the bloodstream which enters the blood vessels of the brain until such that time that it gets stuck somewhere along very small vessels which makes it impossible to pass through. This clot is now referred to as "embolus".
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  2. 2
    Hemorrhagic Stroke
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    More popularly referred to as "cerebral hemorrhage", this is considered a fatal stroke type in comparison to ischemic stroke which has a relatively higher recovery and survival rate. Massive bleeding in the brain is usually caused by ruptured aneurysm, severe high blood pressure, or violent head trauma; among others. The steady buildup of pressure in the hemorrhagic region can directly destroy brain tissues and affect normal blood circulation which then causes irreversible damage in the brain cells. Bleeding could occur inside the brain (intercerebral), in the meninges (subdural), in between the covering of the brain as well as the brain itself (subarachnoid), and in between the brain's membrane covering and the skull (epidural). Patients would initially feel an agonizing headache which could render him or her unconscious. Other symptoms such as nausea, vision and speech loss, vomiting, paralysis, extreme numbness or weakness, and confusion can be felt in rapid succession.
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Causes and Risk Factors of Stroke

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  1. 1
    Gender - There is a much higher incidence of stroke in men rather than in women.
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  • 2
    Age - Older men and women at age 60 and above are more prone to having a stroke as compared to younger people
    Embolic stroke is found to be more common in the elderly while the younger ones suffer mostly from hemorrhagic stroke.
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  • 3
    Race or Ethnicity - African-Americans and Hispanics are at higher risk of having a stroke than "Whites" or other races.
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  • 4
    Unhealthy Lifestyle - Habitual drinking of alcoholic beverages, illegal substance abuse, high-caloric diet, and excessive smoking can trigger stroke as well as other life-threatening diseases
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  • 5
    Other Diseases - If you are diagnosed with other related diseases such as hypertension, cardiac anomalies, or cholesterol problems then you are considered at risk of suffering from stroke.
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  • Warning Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

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    1. 1
      Severe Headache - Sudden throbbing headaches accompanied with dizzy spells as well as loss of balance and coordination
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    2. 2
      Impaired Vision - This is described as sudden dim or blurred vision in one eye; with concurring episodes of double vision.
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    3. 3
      Communication Difficulty - The person suddenly displays difficulty with speaking and understanding simple sentences, expressing thoughts, and becomes altogether incoherent
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    4. 4
      Droopy Face - The face suddenly appears uneven
      One side would look somewhat droopy and is often accompanied with feeling of numbness.
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    5. 5
      Leg and/or Arm Weakness - Either right or left arm and/or leg would experience generalized weakness with associated numbness.
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    Ways to Prevent Stroke

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    • Control High Blood Pressure. Its important to have a diet rich in potassium and you would want to reduce your salt intake, plus saturated fat, and cholesterol.
    • A healthy, moderate lifestyle can do much to prevent a stroke. Eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.
    • When you drink alcohol, drink in moderation, and quit smoking. Smoking causes the blood vessels to shrink, which increases pressure, and is a leading cause of stroke. Don't smoke.

    Questions and Answers

    Does a stroke which flooded whole brain with blood for hours damage brain greatly?

    Definitely. When blood clots in the brain, you need to get immediate medical help before it can lead to a more life threatening condition. It may not only pose brain damage, but worse, fatality. Blood clots can be transmitted to other parts of the body, and if it reaches the lungs, then it leads to pulmonary embolism, which can cause death.

    Yes it will greatly damage the brain if its flooded with blood for several hours due to these factors:

    1. Loss of blood supply going to the brain. - When hemorrhagic stroke occurs, the blood inside the blood vessels located inside the brain will leak to the surrounding brain tissues which means lesser blood supplying oxygen going to the brain which leads to brain damage mainly caused by ischemia. If it is untreated for several hours, the greater the damage dealt to the brain tissues. 2. Increase in ICP. - Another factor is when hemorrhagic stroke occurs, the blood which flooded the brain for several hours will add to the ICP or to the intracranial pressure increasing it exponentially which will lead to the compression of the brain tissues which also lead to brain damage. To sum it up, the brain which flooded by blood for several hours caused by stroke will be greatly affected primarily by the two mentioned factors above.

    What is intracranial hemorrhage vs subarachnoid?

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    Brain hemorrhage is referred to in varied terms such as cerebral hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, or intracranial hemorrhage. Intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) in layman terms pertain to localized type of bleeding that happens anywhere within or inside the skull which could be caused by head trauma or other non-traumatic causes such as aneurysm, hypertension, arteriovenous malformations (AVM), cancer, or illegal substance abuse; to name a few. Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) falls under the intracranial hemorrhage category. This specifically is grouped under the extra-axial hemorrhage category alongside other subtypes such as subdural, epidural, and intracerebral or intraparenchymal hemorrhage.

    The main differentiating factor in these hemorrhagic types is the location as to where the blood leakage or rupture happens and where it diffuses. The type of hemorrhage is easily classified depending on the location of the rupture or bleeding in the meningeal layers or subarachnoid space. In this case, intracranial hemorrhage refers to bleeding localized or diffused anywhere inside the skull while subarachnoid hemorrhage is differentiated as bleeding that happens right on the meninges or the brain tissues. Symptoms also vary depending on the location of bleeding or the affected region of the brain. Headache may or may not be present in the case of intracranial hemorrhage while it can be strongly felt with patients suffering from subarachnoid hemorrhage because the affected meninges are highly sensitive. The most common symptom of subarachnoid hemorrhage is a sudden and strong onset of headache. The patient could experience what is coined as "sentinel headache" that preludes a throbbing and much stronger headache known as the "thunderclap headache" accompanied by other hemorrhagic symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness, hemiparesis, and coma. Every household should be aware of these tell-tale signs and symptoms and note that brain hemorrhage is always considered a medical emergency that which requires immediate medical intervention.

    The term hemorrhage simply means profuse bleeding or the excessive loss of blood coming from the blood vessels. The intracranial hemorrhage means bleeding within or inside the cranium or skull (the latin word intra means within and cranial means skull). The space between the brain and the tissues covering the brain is called subarachnoid space and the subarachnoid hemorrhage simply means bleeding in the subarachnoid space in the brain. The main difference is that the intracranial hemorrhage is much more generalized in nature which means any types of hemorrhages inside the brain is under the classification of intracranial hemorrhage while the subarachnoid hemorrhage is much smaller in nature and it is under the category of intracranial hemorrhage. The four categories of intracranial hemorrhage includes epidural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hematoma and the intracerebral hemorrhage.

    How are hypertension diabetes and heart disease related with stroke?

    I am not getting how they relate? I mean what's the connection between these diseases and the stroke

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