The sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen. Always err on the side of caution and seek emergency medical advice if you suspect that you or someone you know might be having a stroke.
What Causes a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel, which is carrying oxygen and nutrients to an area of the brain bursts or is blocked by a clot. This can damage or destroy brain cells which will affect abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control. A stroke is a medical emergency. Therefore, recognising the symptoms and accessing treatment immediately can be crucial.
What Are the Symptoms of a Stroke?
How a person is affected by their stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged. However, there are key factors that can help to identify when a stroke may be occurring. These include:
- Numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the body
- Slurred speech, difficulty thinking of words or understanding other people
- Confusion or memory loss
- Sudden blurred vision or sight loss
- Being unsteady on your feet
- Severe headache
Face – Can the person smile? Has their Mouth or eye drooped?
Arm – Can the person raise both arms?
Speech – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time – Call 999 or 112 for an ambulance immediately if you spot any one of these signs
DON’T wait for the symptoms to go away
KNOW your Eircode so that the ambulance can reach you as fast as possible
Types of Stroke
Ischemic Stroke (blocked artery)
Over 80% of strokes are caused by a blockage of an artery supplying blood to the brain. This is known as an ischaemic stroke. Ischemic stroke can be broken into two main types: thrombotic and embolic
A thrombotic stroke occurs when diseased or damaged cerebral arteries become blocked by the formation of a blood clot within the brain.
An embolic stroke is also caused by a clot within an artery, but in this case the clot (or emboli) forms somewhere other than in the brain itself. Often from the heart, these emboli will travel in the bloodstream until they become lodged and cannot travel any farther. This naturally restricts the flow of blood to the brain and results in near-immediate physical and neurological deficits.
Ministroke/Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
TIA is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those you’d have in a stroke. A temporary decrease in blood supply to part of your brain causes TIAs, which may last as little as five minutes.
TIAs are caused when a clot or debris blocks blood flow to part of your nervous system – but there is no permanent tissue damage and no lasting symptoms.
Having TIA puts you at greater risk of have a stroke. If you’ve had a TIA, it means there’s likely a partially blocked or narrowed artery leading to your brain or a clot source in the heart.
Always seek emergency care if you fear that you might be having a TIA, even if your symptoms seem to clear up.
Hemorrhagic Stroke (destroyed artery)
Up to 20% of strokes are caused by a bleed into the brain from a burst blood vessel. This is called a cerebral haemorrhage and causes the more serious kind of stroke. It is often not obvious why someone should have suffered a stroke. Even though many people believe it to be a factor, stress is not a cause of stroke.
How Can I Prevent Having a Stroke?
Many factors can increase your stroke risk. There are steps that you can take in order to limit your risk of stroke. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Keeping physically active
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Avoid the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines
- Don’t smoke
- Controlling high blood pressure
- Controlling diabetes
If you would like to avail of expert advice around stroke prevention or anything detailed in this article, drop into your local Haven Pharmacy where we have expert community Pharmacists ready to help you to improve your health and look after yourself.