Understanding strokes

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2017

While most of us know what a heart attack is, few know or fully understand what causes them. We tend to know even less about a stroke. This article provides a very simplistic and basic overview of strokes, and its purpose is to make you aware of the types of strokes and why they may occur.

Somewhat like a heart attack, a stroke is a brain attack. It occurs when an artery that supplies blood to part of the brain becomes blocked or tears. Brain cells start to deteriorate and die within minutes if they don’t get oxygen and nutrition, and permanent loss can occur if too much time is lost before proper treatment.

Depending on which part of the brain is involved, we often see the impact of a stroke that can range from difficulty walking, speaking, paralysis or problems thinking. If treated quickly many people can recover fully. In cases where there are some residual effects from a stroke, through therapy, victims can show improvement as other parts of the human brain are trained to begin doing some of the functions that may have been lost.

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There are two major types of strokes. The most common is an ischemic or blood clot induced stroke. These account for about 87 percent of all strokes. One of the most common causes of this of stroke is atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm of the heart that can cause creation of a clot. About 33 percent of people with untreated atrial fibrillation suffer a stroke.

The second type is a hemorrhagic stroke or bleeding in the brain. These make up about 13 percent of all strokes. They occur due to bleeding into the brain usually caused by the tear of an artery in the brain. Functional loss occurs the area of the brain is then deprived of oxygen-enriched blood.

There are some things you should be aware of that may help you decrease the likelihood or reduce the damage of a stroke. First, have your doctor check your blood pressure regularly. If you have high blood pressure, monitor it, and if necessary have it properly treated. Second, follow a sensible regime of diet and exercise because it’s as good for your brain as it is for your body.

Know the signs of a stroke by learning FAST. It’s an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. Learn this and call 9-1-1 if one or more of these symptoms is present. It’s better to act quickly and err on the side of caution than wait and increase potential damage.

F – FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A – ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S – SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

T – TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant & expert speaker on issues of aging, Medicare and Obamacare. Ron is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on Amazon.com. He may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at drron561@gmail.com.