What Is a Stroke?
Effective secondary prevention of cerebral stroke is impossible without knowledge of the causes of this disease.
A stroke is a serious (acute) problem with blood circulation in the brain. The reason may be a rupture of, not necessarily a large, vessel; this type of stroke is called hemorrhagic. Or a blood clot blocking the blood flow, stroke, respectively, ischemic.
Depending on which part of the brain was damaged, those neurological functions for which it was responsible are affected. Some lose speech, while some become paralyzed partially or completely. Some have trouble breathing, and some die altogether.
Stroke statistics are disappointing: 31% of stroke patients require special care, 20% cannot walk independently, and only 8% return to normal life after a long rehabilitation. But worst of all, stroke is difficult to predict. No wonder they called it a blow. Acute cerebral impairment develops suddenly and quickly. Often, literally from scratch, a person has just laughed, joked, and now they call an ambulance.
Risk factors. Some people are more vulnerable to developing a stroke than others. And most often, these are those who:
- Suffer from hypertension; this is the most common cause of strokes.
- Have some type of heart condition (such as heart failure or arrhythmia).
- Suffer from diabetes mellitus. Diabetes damages blood vessels, including the brain, increasing the risk of hemorrhage.
- Are overweight.
- Take certain medications. Dangerous drugs include those that alter estrogen levels. For example, birth control pills.
- Lead a sedentary lifestyle.
- Have high blood cholesterol levels.
- Suffer from sleep apnea.
- Are over 55 years old. According to statistics, every decade after 55, the risk of getting a stroke doubles.
- Have a family history of strokes, with a close relative being a victim of a stroke.
- Are male. In women, the risk of stroke is much lower.
Secondary prevention of stroke
Secondary prevention of stroke comes down primarily to lifestyle correction. Here’s what, according to experts, should be done in the first place, in addition to avoiding risk factors:
- Monitor your blood pressure. People with arterial hypertension are especially frequent victims of strokes. They have cerebral hemorrhages (hemorrhagic strokes). Moreover, there are two possible scenarios for the development of events: either one of the cerebral vessels ruptures, or blood seeps through its wall into the surrounding tissues for some time. In any case, high blood pressure plays a significant role in this process. And for patients, it is crucial to keep the situation under control by the doctor to help maintain blood pressure at an optimal level.
- Control your cholesterol levels. Most strokes occur when the arteries in the brain become narrowed or completely blocked (ischemic stroke). The reason is cholesterol plaque deposited on the walls of blood vessels. It is necessary to adhere to a diet that involves limiting fat intake to minimize illness. You should know that not all fats are harmful to the body (for example, polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are very useful).
- Control your blood sugar levels to avoid risk factors. According to statistics, the presence of diabetes mellitus increases the risk of stroke by 2.5 times. It is not surprising that diabetics often experience heart failure, excess weight, and poor vascular walls. Moreover, when carbohydrate metabolism is disturbed, the rate of water excretion from the body increases, increasing the blood density. It is necessary to monitor the diet, limit the intake of fast carbohydrates, control the glucose level in the blood, and periodically pass the appropriate tests to avoid the development of a stroke.
- Watch your weight. Being overweight brings with it several factors. These factors include an increase in blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and the possible development of diabetes. Losing even 4-5 extra pounds will significantly improve your chances of avoiding a stroke.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits. At least 4-5 servings (apple, cabbage salad, grilled vegetables, etc.) per day. Plant food lowers blood pressure and improves vascular elasticity; this, in turn, is an excellent secondary prevention of stroke.
- Quit smoking. Passive smoking, like active smoking, has a destructive effect on blood vessels. And with a visit to smokers for the company too.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity reduces the risk of developing all types of stroke. Aerobic training is especially good: walking, running, swimming, cycling, fitness with a low load. Exercises work in a complex manner. They help reduce weight, improve the overall blood vessels and heart, and reduce stress. Try to keep your daily workouts up to at least 30 minutes.
- Manage stress. At the moment of nervous tension, a large amount of adrenaline is released into the bloodstream. The glucose level rises sharply, the heart begins to work more actively, and blood pressure rises. There is a momentary load on the vessels, which can lead to a stroke. Of course, it is impossible to eliminate stress from life, but it is worth learning to control your reaction to stressful situations. People who are prone to nervousness may need to consult a doctor; they will recommend anti-anxiety medications.
- Go through an annual medical examination. A timely visit to a doctor will help identify health problems on time and start treatment on time.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to reduce the risk factors of a stroke to zero. Therefore, in addition to preventive measures, it is important to know what a stroke looks like and what to do if it happens to you or someone close to you.
Doctors have several hours to save the person. Everyone needs to know the symptoms of a stroke to recognize the disease.
The first 3–6 hours after a stroke is the therapeutic window of time when medical care is most effective. Sometimes a person does not immediately notice that something is wrong with them or thinks that the malaise will go away on its own. Because of this, precious time is wasted, say, stroke survivors. Therefore, it is essential to know what a stroke looks like and what to do with it.
The main signs of a stroke
- Suddenly and severely, the head begins to hurt.
- The person loses consciousness.
- The balance is disturbed, the gait becomes unsteady.
- Part of the body goes numb on one side, for example, half of the face.
- Speech problems appear; words are difficult to pronounce.
- Vision loss in one eye or both.
How do you know for sure that this is a stroke? Ask the person to follow a few simple steps:
- Smile. If a person cannot smile or the smile comes out one-sided (this was not the case before), sound the alarm.
- Talk. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence or poem after you. After a stroke, articulation is impaired, speech becomes slurred.
- Stick out tongue. If a person cannot do this, if the tongue involuntarily deviates to one side or looks slanted, then this is a stroke.
- Raise two hands evenly. With a stroke, a person will not be able to control both arms equally well.
- Raise your hands in front of you and close your eyes. If one arm falls involuntarily, it is a sign of a stroke.
- Write SMS. Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital noticed that patients who lack other signs of a stroke could not type a coherent message and write a meaningless set of words without noticing it.
If a person has not coped with at least one of the tasks, this is enough to act immediately.
What if a person has a stroke? First, call an ambulance. Be sure to describe why you suspect a stroke: a headache suddenly started, the person lost consciousness or balance. Tell us what the patient cannot do: cannot smile, cannot raise two hands, cannot pronounce words.
With a stroke, professional help is needed as soon as possible.
After calling an ambulance, lay the person on pillows; the elevation should start from the shoulder blades. Provide fresh air, open a window or door in the room, unbutton tight clothes.
Do not give food and water because organ functions may be impaired, and it will be difficult for a person to swallow.
If possible, measure your blood pressure. If it is high, give the person the blood pressure-lowering medication they usually take. If there is no such pill, do not give anything.