Stroke: 5 Signs You Could Be at Risk of a Brain Attack
Stroke is when poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death. There are two main types of stroke: ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and hemorrhagic, due to bleeding. They result in part of the brain not functioning properly.
Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include an inability to move or feel on one side of the body, problems understanding or speaking, feeling like the world is spinning, or loss of vision to one side among others. Signs and symptoms often appear soon after the stroke has occurred.
If symptoms last less than one or two hours it is known as a transient
ischemic attack (TIA). Hemorrhagic strokes may also be associated with a severe headache. The symptoms of a stroke can be permanent. Long term complications may include pneumonia or loss of bladder control.
The most important modifiable risk factors for stroke are high blood
pressure and atrial fibrillation although the size of the effect is small with 833 people have to be treated for 1 year to prevent one stroke. Other modifiable risk factors include high blood cholesterol levels, diabetes mellitus, cigarette smoking (active and passive), drinking lots of alcohol and drug use, lack of physical activity, obesity, processed red meat
consumption and unhealthy diet. Alcohol use could predispose to ischemic stroke, and intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhage via multiple mechanisms (for example via hypertension, atrial fibrillation, rebound thrombocytosis and platelet aggregation and clotting disturbances). Drugs, most commonly amphetamines and cocaine, can induce stroke
through damage to the blood vessels in the brain and/or acute hypertension.
High levels of physical activity reduce the risk of stroke by about 26%.There is a lack of high quality studies looking at promotional efforts to improve lifestyle factors. Nonetheless, given the large body of circumstantial evidence, best medical management for stroke includes advice on diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol use. Medication is the most common method of stroke prevention; carotid endarterectomy can be a useful surgical method of preventing stroke.
Watch for these signs and symptoms if you think you or someone else may be having a stroke. Note when your signs and symptoms begin, because the length of time they have been present may guide your treatment decisions:
1 Trouble with speaking and understanding. You may experience confusion. You may slur your words or have difficulty understanding speech.
2. Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg. You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Similarly, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
3. Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes. You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.
4. Headache. A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate you’re having a stroke.
5. Trouble with walking. You may stumble or experience sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
A stroke can sometimes cause temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the brain lacks blood flow and which part was affected. Complications may include:
Paralysis or loss of muscle movement. You may become paralyzed on one side of your body, or lose control of certain muscles, such as those on one side of your face or one arm. Physical therapy may help you return to activities hampered by paralysis, such as walking, eating and dressing.
Difficulty talking or swallowing. A stroke may cause you to have less control over the way the muscles in your mouth and throat move, making it difficult for you to talk clearly (dysarthria), swallow or eat (dysphagia). You also may have difficulty with language (aphasia), including speaking or understanding speech, reading or writing. Therapy with a speech and language pathologist may help.
Memory loss or thinking difficulties. Many people who have had strokes experience some memory loss. Others may have difficulty thinking, making judgments, reasoning and understanding concepts.
Emotional problems. People who have had strokes may have more difficulty controlling their emotions, or they may develop depression.
Pain. People who have had strokes may have pain, numbness or other strange sensations in parts of their bodies affected by stroke. For example, if a stroke causes you to lose feeling in your left arm, you may develop an uncomfortable tingling sensation in that arm.
People also may be sensitive to temperature changes, especially extreme cold after a stroke. This complication is known as central stroke pain or central pain syndrome. This condition generally develops several weeks after a stroke, and it may improve over time. But because the pain is caused by a problem in your brain, rather than a physical injury, there are few treatments.
Changes in behavior and self-care ability. People who have had strokes may become more withdrawn and less social or more impulsive. They may need help with grooming and daily chores.
As with any brain injury, the success of treating these complications will vary from person to person.