A stroke occurs when the blood supply going to the brain is interrupted due to a blood clot, ruptured artery or restricted blood vessels. This interruption deprives the brain of much-needed oxygen and glucose and can lead to health conditions such as brain damage. Stroke victims often have impaired speech, memory loss and/or restricted mobility.
Two major types of stroke
- Hemorrhagic stroke– A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain explodes and spills blood into the brain. This is caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure, head injury, or aneurysm. High blood pressure is the most common cause of cerebral haemorrhage, as it causes small arteries inside the brain to burst. When this happens, certain parts of the brain are deprived of oxygen, causing the brain to stop functioning. It accounts for about 20 percent of all reported stokes cases. Signs and symptoms include:
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Partial or total loss of consciousness
- Vomiting or severe nausea
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Transient Ischemic Attacks – Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) are often called mini-strokes. In TIA, the blood clot that blocks the flow of the blood in the brain breaks up on its own and the symptoms disappear after a short period of time. It generally does not cause severe brain damage, however, TIAs can be a warning of a more severe future stroke. Ischemic strokes account for 80 percent of all reported stoke cases. The symptoms disappear quickly, so it’s important to seek medical assistance immediately when symptoms appear.
Risk factors for stroke
- Age 55 years and above
- African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander
- A family history of stroke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Smoking cigarettes
- Obesity / Cardiovascular disease
- A previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- High levels of homocysteine (an amino acid in blood)
- Birth control use or other hormone therapy
- Cocaine use
- Heavy use of alcohol
First aid for stroke
To know whether or not a person is experiencing possible stoke, remeber F.A.S.T.:
Face: Is one side of the face drooping down?
Arm: Can the person raise both arms, or is one arm weak?
Speech: Is speech slurred or confusing?
Time: Time is critical!! Call 9-1-1 immediately!
While waiting for medical assistance to arrive, do the following first aid for stroke:
- Ask the person their name. If someone has had a stroke, they may not be able to talk, so grasp both their hands and ask them to squeeze — they may respond by squeezing one of your hands. This can help determine consciousness.
- Check their airway; look for an obstruction. If the airway is not clear, turn the person into recovery position:
- Kneel beside the person.
- Put their arm that’s farthest from you out at right angles to their body.
- Place their nearer arm across their chest.
- Bend their nearer leg up at the knee; the other leg should be straight.
- While supporting their head and neck, roll the person away from you.
- When they are on their side, keeps their top leg bent at the knee, with the knee touching the ground.
Check for breathing by titling the head. If the person is not breathing:
- Turn the casualty onto their back.
- Tilt their head backwards.
- Lift their chin, pinch the nose closed and give teo initial mouth-to-mouth breaths.
- Make sure their chest rises and falls with each breath.
- If breathing does not return, continue with CPR:
- Kneel beside the person, give 30 chest compressions on the lower half of the breastbone. Use two hands with the fingers interlocked.
- Tilt their head backwards, tilt the chin and give two mouth-to-mouth breaths while pinching the nose shut.
- Keep alternating between 30 compressions and two breaths until the person shows signs of life or medical help arrives.
If the person is breathing and conscious, do the following:
- Lie the person down with their head and shoulders raised and supported (use pillows or cushions).
- Keep them at a comfortable temperature.
- Loosen any tight clothing.
- Wipe away any secretions from the mouth.
- Make sure the airway is clear and open.
- Assure the person that help is on the way (they may be able to communicate by squeezing your hands if they can’t speak).
- Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
How to prevent stroke
- Eat a healthy diet. Poor diet is a major risk factor for stroke. High-fat foods can lead to the build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries.Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat including:
- meat pies
- sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- ghee: a type of butter that is often used in Indian cooking
- hard cheese
- cakes and biscuits
Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.
- Regular exercise will help regulate proper blood flow and reduce fat build-up that may cause fatty plaques in the arteries. It also helps maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol.
More treatment and prevention
If you’re suffering from high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, it’s important to monitor your health to prevent the risk of suffering a stroke. Here are some steps that you need to consider.
- Have your cholesterol checked.
- Monitor your blood pressure on a daily basis.
- Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
- Talk with your health care provider. You and your doctor can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease.