What is a stroke?
The saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure”. I totally agree. I am sure you do. Before we get into prevention, we will need to understand what stroke is and the risks and causes associated with it. So, what is a stroke?
The brain cannot store oxygen, so it needs constant supply of blood rich in oxygen. When the blood supply to the brain is suddenly cut off, the brain will not have supply of nutrients and oxygen. If the loss of supply of oxygen to the brain is more than three to four minutes, the brain tissues begin to die. And it will result in a stroke and even permanent brain damage. To put it simply, a stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or bursts.
Types of Stroke
There are two main types of stroke. Now, I will have to introduce several medical terms. But just hang on there as I try to explain them plainly.
- Ischemic stroke – This is the most common type of stroke. About 87% of all strokes are ischemic. This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain develops a clot and cuts off the blood supply to the brain. Blood clots often result from the build-up of cholesterol in the blood vessels. There are instances where a blood clot is formed in other parts of the body and travels to the brain.
- Haemorrhagic stroke – This type of stroke often takes place when a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures. A haemorrhage (bleeding from the blood vessel) occurs suddenly. The force of blood that escapes from the blood vessel can also damage surrounding brain tissue. This is the most serious kind of stroke. About 13% of all strokes are haemorrhagic. The haemorrhagic stroke is most often caused by high blood pressure.
Symptoms of a stroke
Can we detect stroke symptoms? Fortunately, God has built in warning signs in our body. Once a warning sign is detected, seek medical attention immediately. Even if stroke symptoms disappear, they are a clear warning that a larger stroke may develop.
- Sudden weakness/numbness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking or understanding words
- Decreased or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden, severe headache
- Unexplained loss of balance or dizziness
If you notice signs of a stroke, think “FAST” and do the following:
- Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred?
- Time. If you observe any of these signs, seek medical attention immediately.
Long-term effects caused by a stroke
The effects of a stroke largely rest on the extent and the location of damage in the brain. Among the many types of disabilities that can result from a stroke are:
- Inability to move parts of the body (paralysis)
- Inability to speak or understand words
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Memory loss, confusion or poor judgment
- Change in personality, emotional problems
After a stroke, the patient might focus on physiotherapy (physical rehabilitation) to regain the ambulatory or mobility. It is also important to include memory and social (emotional) rehabilitation to complete the whole treatment regime.
So, can we prevent stroke? Fortunately, the answer is YES!
I called the three common medical conditions leading to a stroke condition the three highs. No, I am not referring to taking drugs to go on cloud nine. On the contrary, we do not want to be diagnosed to have any of them. The 3 highs are high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high glucose level in the blood (more clinically known as diabetes). Eat healthily and moderately is a key factor. Literally, you are what you eat. Hence avoid high cholesterol, high sugar and salty food will bring down the 3 highs to a manageable level.
Stop Smoking! Smoking reduces good cholesterol (HDL) and increases bad cholesterol (LDL). Habitual smoking leads to high blood pressure and causes irregular heartbeat. All these conditions are a sure breeding ground for a perfect stroke to strike.
Sleeping enough and well is a good treatment of high blood pressure. To stay healthy, one should sleep at least 6 to 8 hours.
In conclusion, we can all play our part to prevent stroke by eating right and sleeping well. More importantly, we need to act fast to seek medical attention once a stroke symptom is detected. If a stroke has occurred, one must seek proper rehabilitation program to restore the social vibrancy.
Written by Tommy Tan