Understanding Stroke is Key to its Prevention
Stroke is the second largest cause of death and also a major cause of disability worldwide. Every year about 13.7 million new cases of stroke are reported across the globe. In India, about 1.8 million people suffer a stroke every year and claims about 119-145 lives in every 100,000 people. Evidence also suggests a rising incidence of stroke in young adults due to increased prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and substance abuse globally.
Causes and Associated Complications
A stroke is caused by a poor or reduced blood supply to the brain, resulting in rapid destruction in brain cells and hindrance of its functions. Stroke can be categorised namely as
- Ischaemic stroke, where the blood supply is compromised due to blocked arteries
- Haemorrhagic stroke, occurring due to rupturing of blood vessels in the brain
- Transient ischaemic attack caused due to temporary decrease in blood circulation to the brain
The most common complications of a stroke include death, paralysis or loss of muscle activity, difficulty in talking or swallowing food, pain, memory loss, emotional imbalance and changes in one’s behaviour. The economic and social burden of stroke is considerable in India. Many of the stroke survivors live with permanent disabilities requiring lifelong rehabilitation and care.
The most common risk factors of stroke include
- Elderly age
- Male sex
- Physical inactivity
- High Alcohol intake
- Drug abuse
- Use of birth control pills or estrogen therapy
- Cigarette smoking
- High cholesterol
- Obstructive sleep apnoea
- Cardiovascular disease
- Personal or family history of stroke
- COVID-19 infection
When to seek medical help
During a stroke, every minute counts. You can help someone succumbing to a stroke attack by spotting early signs and rushing them to the hospital.
- One side of the face droops
- Weakness of the arms
- Difficulty in speech
- Loss of vision
- Sudden severe headache
- Loss of balance
Diagnosis and Management
The diagnosis of stroke is usually established by a thorough physical examination, blood tests, CT scan, MRI, carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiogram and echocardiogram. These tests will help determine the severity of the stroke as well as the likelihood of another stroke.
A stroke is a medical emergency and requires prompt medical management. The gold standard of treatment for an ischaemic stroke involves IV medications to dissolve blood clot causing the stroke and restoring blood flow to the brain. Emergency endovascular procedures may involve medications being delivered directly to the brain at the site of stroke or removing the clot with a stent retriever. Management of hemorrhagic stroke involves blood transfusion, medications and surgery.
Rehabilitation is important to help patients regain normal functions and body movements after emergency treatment.