Stroke happens in the brain not the heart. The term “Brain Attack” is the most descriptive and realistic description of a stroke, and should warrant the same degree of emergency care as a heart attack. After all, your brain is your mind and your body’s most vital and delicate organ. So what exactly is a stroke?
Stroke is a sudden brain damage or injury to the brain. It is the lack of blood flow to the brain caused by a blood clot or rupture of a blood vessel. There are two types of stroke:
- Hemorrhagic – caused by an artery (blood vessel) bursting resulting in bleeding into or around the brain.
- Ischemic – the result of a clot restricting blood flow to an area of the brain. This account for the majority of stokes incidences.
For simplicity and to save you from the medical jargon, just remember the two types of strokes as the “Bleed”, or “clot” types.
Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability. Every 40 seconds someone suffers from a stroke, every four minutes someone dies from a stroke.
DE-MYSTIFYING STROKE PERCEPTIONS:
SYMPTOMS OF STROKE
When stroke happens it can cause different kinds symptoms. Depending on where in the brain the stroke occurs, there can be a wide range of symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can be very subtle often causing a delay in treatment. One important thing to remember is, if the symptoms start suddenly this could be a sign of stroke.
If you have any of the following symptoms then you need to seek immediate medical attention:
- Sudden and severe headache
- Sudden confusion
- Trouble speaking or understanding.
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg , especially on one side of the body (most common sign of stroke)
- Trouble walking, sudden dizziness, loss of balance.
Immediate response to a stroke event is crucial because every minute matters – the sooner someone having a stroke arrives at the hospital, the more likely the brain may be saved. Appropriate treatment can be more effective if given quickly. Every minute matters! If you observe any of these symptoms, get help immediately. Time is Brain! Treatment is available and some options are most effective if administered within the first three hours after experiencing symptoms. Your chances of walking out of the hospital with little to no disability are greatly improved if you receive appropriate treatments early. Unfortunately, in our clime, several life-saving valuable hours is lost before help is received after experiencing the first stroke symptom; largely due to lack of awareness and emergency un-preparedness. This is why it’s important that everyone learns how to RECOGNIZE stroke symptoms and how to RESPOND.
The Face, arm, speech test, otherwise known as F.A.S.T. is a good way to remember the symptoms of stroke and what to do.
F = Face: ask the person to smile - do both sides of the face move equally? (Normal) Or does one side of the face not move at all? (Abnormal)
A = Arm: ask the person to raise both arms - do both arms move equally? (Normal) Or does one arm drift downward compared to the other? (Abnormal)
S = Speech: ask the person to speak a simple sentence - Does the person use correct words with no slurring? (Normal) Or do they slur their speech; use inappropriate words or is unable to speak at all? (Abnormal)
T = Time: to call for help….if you observe any of the above described abnormalities, call for help or get the person to the hospital immediately. Every minute matters!
An understanding of the risk factors of having a stroke (Risk Factors: Something that increases a person's chances of developing a disease) is key to prevention. The five major risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and a family history (if anyone in your family has had a heart attack or a stroke before age 55, then your chances of having one is high). To prevent stroke therefore, you must:
- Know your blood pressure. Have it checked at least annually. If it is elevated, work with your doctor to control it. Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, increases stroke risk four to six times.
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles stroke risk.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. If you don’t drink, don’t start.
- Know your cholesterol number. If it is high, work with your doctor to control it.
- If you are diabetic, follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully to control your diabetes. People with diabetes have a significantly higher stroke risk. This may be related to circulation problems that diabetes can cause.
- Incorporate physical activity that you enjoy into your daily routine. Active people tend to have lower cholesterol levels. Regular exercise also seems to slow down or stop clogging of blood vessels.
- Enjoy a low-sodium (salt) diet. Too much salt may contribute to high blood pressure and make it more difficult to control.
- Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems which increase your risk for stroke. If you do, work with your doctor to control this condition.
Up to 80 per cent of all strokes are preventable through risk factor management hence, prevention is very important. .
BE STROKE SMART – the 3Rs
POINTS TO PONDER:
- Recognize stroke warning signs and symptoms
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
- Through staying healthy and managing risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and weight we can help to reduce risk factors.
- Get HELP immediately if you think you or someone else might be having a stroke. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Time is Brain.
Until next time…be safe and remember that your health matters!
Dr. Ramat Lawal-Unuigbe