At London Doctors Clinic, we're helping raise awareness of common medical conditions, by educating our readers on the basics. Today, we're focusing on strokes.
What Is A Stroke?
A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is reduced, which results in damage or death to that part of the brain.
Although most of us are broadly aware of the seriousness of this condition, it can be scary to consider that it might someday happen to us or a loved one. However, if it does, the more we know about strokes the better able we will be to deal with the consequences. Knowing as much as possible about how we can prevent a stroke is also helpful, and we will talk in more detail about this later in the article.
Types Of Stroke:
There are two main types of stroke:
Over 80% of strokes are this type, occurring when there is a blockage of an artery carrying blood to the brain.
One cause of this type of stroke is when a blood clot (called a cerebral thrombosis) forms in an artery that has been already narrowed by a condition called atherosclerosis.
Another cause is a partial clot, which is formed in the heart or blood vessels of the neck, and is carried in the bloodstream to the brain.
The final cause of this type of stroke is a blockage in the tiny blood vessels lying deep in the heart - this is called a lacunar stroke.
The remaining 20% of strokes are of this type, and it is known as a cerebral haemorrhage. It occurs when a blood vessel bursts and releases blood into the brain. This is a more serious type of stroke than the ischaemic type.
What Is The Difference Between A Stroke & A Mini-Stroke?
A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is also known as a mini-stroke, and occurs when the brain's blood supply is interrupted momentarily (sometimes for a few minutes). They are caused by small clots, and can result in symptoms such as brief loss of vision or speech, or weakness on the side of the body. The person usually recovers within a day, and doesn’t suffer any long lasting disability. It is important not to ignore a TIA, because it can be a sign that a bigger stroke is coming down the line.
Risk Factors For A Stroke
There are various factors, many of which are lifestyle related, which put people at a higher risk of having a stroke, including:
Many of the risk factors for a stroke are known as “modifiable”, meaning that they can be changed through lifestyle adjustments and paying attention to your health.
High blood pressure can increase the risk of having a stroke
How To Recognise A Stroke
The more familiar we are with the symptoms of a stroke, the quicker emergency medical attention can be sought, and the sufferer can receive treatment. The first few minutes are crucial.
Stroke symptoms include:
- Numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the body
- Slurred speech, difficulty finding words or understanding other people
- Sudden blurred vision or sight loss
- Being unsteady on your feet
- Severe headache
How To Act F.A.S.T.
The government launched a national campaign called Act F.A.S.T. several years ago to help people across the country recognise the signs of a stroke. The simple acronym F.A.S.T. is used:
Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
Can the person raise both arms?
Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
If you spot any of the signs above in yourself or another person, it’s TIME to call 999 for an ambulance.
Now that we know more about stroke, let’s talk about some simple things we can do to reduce the chances of it happening to us. Try these simple tips:
- Stop smoking
- Watch your weight
- Get active!
- Manage your stress
- Cut down on alcohol
- Identify and manage medical conditions associated with stroke, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes
What Are The Results of A Stroke?
Every stroke is different, so it is difficult to say how a person may be affected. The results depend on the severity of the stroke, the part of the brain that’s been damaged, the person’s health prior to having the stroke, and how quickly the person having the stroke receives help.
The right half of the brain controls the left side of the body, and vice versa. For most people, the left side of the brain controls language (talking, reading, writing, understanding), and the right side of the brain controls perceptual skills (interpreting what you see, hear or feel) and spatial skills (judging size, speed, positions), so these areas of functioning might be affected.
Some common problems after a stroke include:
- Loss of sensation
- Difficulty communicating or remembering
- Loss of vision
- Changes in personality
- Difficulty swallowing safely
Are They Having A Stroke? What Should I Do?
So, if you notice any of the symptoms of a stroke, call 999 immediately. You must get to a hospital without delay, where your symptoms will be evaluated, and imaging of the brain may be carried out to help diagnosis. Early diagnosis, admission to hospital and treatment are key to a good outcome. Drug treatments in the hours following a stroke may benefit certain people.
Treatments such as thrombolysis (clot busting drugs) aim to dissolve the blood clot affecting the brain by using powerful blood thinners. Supportive measures taken in hospital may also mitigate against the worst outcomes of a stroke. Stroke services can also plan against and help prevent further strokes.
If you need any more information about strokes, book in for a private GP appointment at any of our nine London clinics - we should never be too far away when you need to find a "GP near me". And, for further support, why not visit the Stroke Association website.
By Melissa Dillon