A stroke is a disease associated with changes in the blood vessels of the brain, and these can be of two types: Ischaemic and haemorrhagic. The first involves a reduction in cerebral blood flow, which is important because it allows the brain to carry oxygen and nutrients essential to the functioning of cells that constitute it.
If this blood flow is reduced or stopped, brain cells fail to receive these essential elements and eventually die. Haemorrhagic disorders account for changes in the permeability of blood vessels in the brain, and can even break them.
Thus, blood vessels trigger the formation of a cluster, compressing the brain structures and altering their functioning. When this happens, the functions performed by the group of cells that die are lost, and the individual has what are called neurological signs; manifestations of the lack of these functions.
Why does a stroke take place?
It depends on the type of stroke we are talking about. In the case of ischaemic stroke, there are two main causes: Thrombosis and embolism. A stroke takes place when an artery, for any reason, becomes increasingly narrow and eventually occludes (the most common reason is atherosclerosis).
Embolism occurs when something that circulates in the bloodstream reaches an artery of a smaller size and occludes (more often, it is blood clots that form in arteries outside the brain or heart). There are other causes too, but are not as common. In the case of a haemorrhagic stroke, the two major causes are a head injury or trauma and a change in the arteries, including aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations.
How can I prevent it?
Like all vascular diseases, the best treatment for a stroke is prevention, identification and treatmentof risk factors such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, smoking and alcoholism. Regular exercise of moderate intensity at least three times a week can help, and so can a diet rich in fish, calcium and potassium.
How can a stroke be identified?
Ask the person to smile first. If she moves her face just to one side, it may be a stroke.
Request her to lift her arms. If there are difficulties in doing so after waking up, or after a fall, seek medical help.
Issue a command to do something or ask the person to repeat a phrase. If she does not respond to the request, she may be suffering from a stroke.
Signals that precede a stroke:
Sudden and severe headache without any apparent cause;
Numbness in the arms and legs;
Difficulty speaking and a loss of balance;
A decrease or sudden loss of strength in the face, arm or leg on the left or right side of the body;
Sudden change in sensitivity, with tingling in he face, arm or leg on one side of the body;
Sudden loss of vision in one eye or both;
Acute speech impairment, including difficulty in articulating and saying words, or understanding the language;
Instability, sudden and intense vertigo, and an imbalance associated with nausea or vomiting.
For most patients, after a stroke, there is a long period of medication, physiotherapy, speech therapy and neuropsychological rehabilitation, the duration of which may vary depending on the bodily functions lost and the age of the patient.
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