Stroke: Symptoms, Causes, & Prevention

by Raksha Hegde last updated -

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15 million people suffer a stroke worldwide each year and 30 percent of these individuals die, according to the World Health Organization. While the numbers are so high, stroke awareness among people is abysmal even in developed countries like the US and the UK. Studies show that most people delay getting medical attention after suffering from symptoms of a stroke because they do not have enough knowledge about this health condition.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a disabling health condition that occurs when the blood supply is interrupted to the brain due to a clot, a block, or because of a rupture. It can cause instant death, paralysis of one side of the body or of the limbs, loss of muscle movement, and slurred speech. People suffering from this health condition also have difficulty controlling their emotions and can suffer from depression.

A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. According to the American Stroke Association, it is one of the most important factors responsible for disability in the US; it is also the fifth leading cause of death. However, there are post-stroke rehabilitation measures that can be taken to make the patients’ lives better. This can involve taking help from a physician, therapists for speech, occupational therapist for muscle rehabilitation, as well as mental health professionals.

Types of Stroke

Let us look at the three most common types of stroke.

  • Ischemic Stroke: It is caused by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. 87 percent of strokes that occur are ischemic strokes, states the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: It occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and accumulates, compressing the surrounding tissue. This kind of stroke makes up 13 percent of the cases.
  • Transient Ischemic Stroke: Sometimes called a ‘mini-stroke’, it happens when the blood is blocked from the brain for a short period of time, say 5 minutes. It is a warning that a full-blown stroke is on its way and medical attention should be sought immediately.

Symptoms

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists the following as symptoms of stroke:

  • Sudden drooping or numbness on one side of the face
  • Slurring of speech or trouble understanding a simple sentence
  • One arm feeling numbness or weakness
  • A full-blown severe headache, with no known reason
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or feeling a lack of coordination
  • Sudden vision problems such as trouble seeing from one or both eyes

FAST is an acronym that has been used for over a decade by the American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association to make it easier for people to take action on themselves or on behalf of others. The full form of the acronym is as follows:

  • F: Facial drooping
  • A: Arm weakness
  • S: Speech difficulties
  • T: Time to seek medical attention immediately

Immediate treatment can help minimize the long-term effect of this health condition and every minute counts. So make sure that you reach out to your local emergency number for immediate medical attention.

Causes of Stroke

The World Health Organization states that high blood pressure contributes to over 12 million strokes globally. However, there are many other risk factors that cause it. The main causes can be any of the following:

  • Hypertension
  • Being obese or overweight
  • High cholesterol
  • Being aged 55 years or older
  • Family history of this condition
  • Heart diseases like a heart defect or heart infection
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking or constant exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Heavy on binge drinking
  • Usage of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Use of birth control pills or hormone therapies involving estrogen

Prevention

Almost 80 percent of strokes are preventable. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Stroke, you can avoid this debilitating condition by leading a healthy lifestyle, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and sleeping for the right amount of hours. If you have suffered an ischemic stroke, the doctor may also prescribe medications such as anti-platelet drugs and anticoagulants. It is best to take advice from your medical practitioner once you have suffered a stroke for the correct rehabilitation measures.

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About the Author

As a content writer for Organic Facts, it’s no surprise that Raksha Hegde loves writing and is passionate about wellness. She’s been a television reporter, a news producer, a yoga teacher, and a wellness festival curator. She’s studied journalism at Boston University and now works in her favorite city, Mumbai. When not working, you can find her doing Yoga or Instagramming.

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