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Strokes

A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Many doctors prefer the term: ”brain attack”, which they feel better describes the seriousness of the condition. 

Like all organs, the brain needs the oxygen and nutrients provided by blood to function properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die. This can lead to brain damage and possibly death.

There are two main types of strokes:

  • ischaemic (accounting for over 80% of all cases): the blood supply is stopped due to a blood clot 
  • haemorrhagic: a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts and causes brain damage
  • There is also a related condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the supply of blood to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing a 'mini-stroke'. TIAs should be treated seriously as they are often a warning sign that a stroke is coming.

Strokes are a medical emergency and prompt treatment is essential, because the sooner a person receives treatment for a stroke, the less damage is likely to happen.

The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: (Face-Arms-Speech-Time)

  •  Face: the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped 
  • Arms: the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness 
  • Speech: their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake 
  • Time: it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms

In England, strokes are a major health problem. Every year over 150,000 people have a stroke and it is the third largest cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. The brain damage caused by strokes means that they are the largest cause of adult disability in the UK.

People over 65 years of age are most at risk from having strokes, although 25% of strokes occur in people who are under 65. It is also possible for children to have strokes.

Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise and a poor diet are also risk factors for stroke. Also, conditions that affect the circulation of the blood, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) and diabetes, increase your risk of having a stroke.

Treatment depends on the type of stroke, including which part of the brain was affected and what caused it. Most often, strokes are treated with medicines. This generally includes drugs to prevent and remove blood clots, reduce blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. In some cases, surgery may be required; this is to clear fatty deposits in the arteries or to repair the damage caused by a haemorrhagic stroke.

For more information visit: http://www.stroke.org.uk/

Stroke Resized

 
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