Brain cells need a constant supply of fresh oxygen and glucose in order to function properly. A stroke or CVA (or cerebrovascular accident) refers to the condition where a blood clot or a ruptured artery or blood vessels prevents the normal flow of blood to a particular area of the brain. When this happens, the lack of oxygen and glucose causes the brain cells to die and results in brain damage that can affect mechanisms such as movement, speech, and memory.
There are two main types of strokes that can occur the ischemic stroke and the hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic strokes account for nearly 75% of the all strokes and are caused when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain. This blood clot can occur anywhere in the body and break off to become a free-floating embolus. It can then reach the brain via the bloodstream and cause an ischemic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused due to the rupture of a blood vessel or artery. This can happen due to a number of reasons such as trauma and injury to the head or high blood pressure.
Symptoms of Stroke
Symptoms of stroke can vary from case to case. In some cases, the symptoms may develop gradually and appear on and off over a period of a few days. In such cases, the person may not know he has had a stroke until much later. In other cases, symptoms can occur suddenly and without any warning. When this happens the stroke is generally more severe.
Symptoms of a stroke include:
- A sudden severe headache that worsens when you lay flat or move about and change positions
- The headache is bad enough to wake you from sleep
- Loss of alertness
- Loss of consciousness
- Changes in hearing, taste, and vision
- Changes in the ability to feel temperature, pressure, or pain
- Loss of memory
- Disorientation and confusion
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty writing or reading
- Loss of balance, dizziness, vertigo
- No control over bladder or bowels
- Lack of coordination and movement
- Feeling of weakness in the muscles of an arm or leg (usually only on one side)
- Feeling of weakness in the muscles of the face (can cause drooling)
- Feeling of numbness or tingling on one side of the body
- Changes in personality, mood swings
- Disturbances in vision (double vision or blurred vision)
- Inability to speak clearly or understand other people speaking
The consequences and symptoms of a stroke will depend on which part of the brain is affected and how much damage to the tissue and cells has occurred. There are also strokes that do not cause any symptoms. These are referred to as silent strokes.
Causes of Stroke
There are two major types of strokes ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are caused by:
A blood clot that forms in an already narrow artery (thrombotic stroke) or a clot that forms elsewhere, breaks away, and travels to the brain via the bloodstream (embolic stroke). Clogged arteries caused by a build up of plaque can also result in an ischemic stroke.
The cause of a hemorrhagic stroke is the rupture of a blood vessel or artery in the brain. When this happens, blood leaks into the brain and affects the tissue and brain cells in the surrounding area. An aneurysm can also cause a hemorrhagic stroke.
There are certain risk factors that increase the chances of a person suffering from stroke. These include:
High blood pressure
Family history of stroke
Age (people over 55 are more susceptible to strokes)
A diet high in fat and salt
Use of drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines
Birth control pills (can increase the chance of stroke in women over 35 who also smoke)
Vasculitis (a rare condition where blood vessels in the brain become inflamed and blood flow is restricted as a result)
Abnormalities related to blood clotting
Genetic predisposition to strokes
Migraine headaches (as this causes the narrowing of blood vessels in the brain)
Remedies for Stroke
If any of the symptoms of stroke appear, call 911 or get the person concerned to an emergency room immediately. The faster a person receives medical attention and treatment, the better the chances of recovery. Doctors need to determine the cause of the stroke as soon as possible and decide which form of treatment will best reverse the stroke situation.
There are certain steps that can be taken while waiting for the ambulance and the doctors diagnosis such as:
- Keep the patient lying down flat to improve blood flow to the brain.
- If uncoordinated or drowsy, make sure the person is kept on his side to prevent choking if vomiting occurs.
- Do not give the patient any medication especially not aspirin. If the stroke is hemorrhagic, aspirin could further aggravate the bleeding.
Once in the hospital or emergency room, treatment for stroke will depend on how severe the stroke is and what caused it:
- Thrombolytic therapy involves using clot-busting drugs if the stroke is caused by a blood clot. However, for this drug to work optimally, the treatment should be given within three hours of the appearance of the first symptom. This type of treatment will not work if bleeding has caused the stroke as such medications can cause more bleeding.
- For strokes caused by blood clots, blood thinners such as heparin, warfarin, or even aspirin may be used.
- Drugs to control high blood pressure are also prescribed to stroke patients.
- For hemorrhagic strokes, surgery to fix damaged blood vessels and drain the blood from the brain may be required.
- In some cases, surgery can open up clogged blood vessels and arteries.
- If the patient has a problem swallowing, fluids and medication may be administered intravenously or through a feeding tube.
- Remedies for stroke also include physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy as the patient begins to recover.
Recovery after a stroke can take a long time. There may be complications and problems related to daily functioning such as talking, moving, and even thinking. These may or may not improve with time and therapy depending on the severity of the stroke.
Diet for Stroke
A diet for stroke patients emphasizes the intake of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. A healthy balanced meal plan is essential for the healthy blood vessels and a constant supply of vitamins and minerals. These vitamins, minerals, and nutrients fight damage caused by free radicals in the body and improve the oxygenation of tissues and cells necessary for healing and recovery. Some suggestions for a stroke diet are:
- Include vegetables that are blue or purple in color such as eggplant, grapes, and red cabbage. These contain anthocyanidins that help lower the risk of stroke.
- A diet high in fruit also increases the level of antioxidants in the body and helps prevent ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.
- Studies show that eating carrots at least five times a week can lower your risk of stroke significantly.
- Avoid foods high in hydrogenated and saturated fats such as red meats, eggs, fried foods and coconut oil. These can raise cholesterol levels and increase plaque build up in the arteries.
- Foods such as walnuts, spinach, sunflower seeds, chicken, fish, and peas are high in vitamin B6 and can prevent stroke.
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon and mackerel are healthy options for people who have suffered from stroke. Similarly foods containing Alpha- Linolenic Acid can prevent blood clots from forming. Soyabean oil, walnuts and canola oil are rish in Alpha- Linolenic Acid.
- Foods high in potassium can also lower blood pressure levels and reduce your risk of stroke.
Suggestions for Stroke
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US today but there are a few simple steps that you can take to prevent a stroke from occurring. These include:
- High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor where stroke is concerned. Regularly check your blood pressure and take the necessary steps to treat high blood pressure if you suffer from it. Make the required changes to your lifestyle and diet and bring your pressure levels back to normal.
- Get your blood sugar checked regularly as well and keep a control on your diabetes.
- Reduce your weight through healthy eating habits and exercise.
- Quit smoking immediately.
- Keep a check on your cholesterol levels.
- Control your salt and sodium intake.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption.
- Find out if you have atrial fibrillation
- Manage stress through yoga and meditation
- Take preventive medications for stroke such as anti-coagulant drugs and anti-platelet medication as prescribed by your doctor.
- Howard S. Kirshner, Differentiating ischemic stroke subtypes: Risk factors and secondary prevention, Journal of the Neurological Sciences, Volume 279, Issues 12, 15 April 2009, Pages 1-8, ISSN 0022-510X, 10.1016/j.jns.2008.12.012.
- Dirk Deleu, Jihad Inshasi, Naveed Akhtar, Jafer Ali, Thomas Vurgese, Shujauldin Ali, Manorama Rajan, Moudi AlMutairy, Ahmed Zayed, George Paulose, Kassid Nouri, Anil Thussu, Francisco Ruiz Miyares, Tayseer Abdeen, Hassan AlHail, Asmahan Alshubaili, Hisham Mahmoud, Risk factors, management and outcome of subtypes of ischemic stroke: A stroke registry from the Arabian Gulf, Journal of the Neurological Sciences, Volume 300, Issues 12, 15 January 2011, Pages 142-147, ISSN 0022-510X, 10.1016/j.jns.2010.08.023.
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