Stroke

woman in hosptial

Call 911 – The TV ads showing a snake around a person’s leg or a woman’s hair on fire are exactly on target in terms of the need for urgency if stroke treatment is going to work.  If a stroke is happening or has just happened, call 911.  Like, really, call 911 NOW, right away, immediately.  Get the person to the closest Specialized Stroke Center Emergency Department.  Those first super-valuable minutes can save their brain.  The next few valuable minutes can save their life.

 

Articles related to Stroke:

Strokes Are Rarely a Surprise

Many people feel that strokes come out of the blue.  You’re fine one day and boom, the next day you’ve had a stroke and you’re medically/neurologically in trouble.  Maybe you’ll be lucky and have a complete recovery, perhaps with some physician therapy help.  Or, sadly, you could be permanently disabled.  Or worse yet, dead.

Not true that they come out of the blue.  Or, more accurately, seldom true.  85% of strokes are due to high blood pressure, hypertension, that has gone untreated for years.  Have your blood pressure checked and, if high, get it treated, and you dodge 85% of the probability of a stroke.  More on prevention below.

A Story

We at the NeuroSci R&D Consultancy care a lot, maybe even worry a lot, about stroke.  Let us tell you a story.  Stroke is personal for one of our company officers.  Both grandfathers died of a stroke at age 73.  His uncle was severely and permanently disabled by a stroke at age 45.  It was an era before medical science knew about the hypertension/stroke link and could treat hypertension.  His father started battling high blood pressure at age 40.  He lived to be 96, a healthy, clear-minded, and happy 96.  Treating high blood pressure really does work.

Kinds of Strokes

There are 2 kinds of strokes.  At least for right now let’s stay with the 2 main kinds of strokes.  One kind is blood vessel blockage, a clot, a thrombus or embolus.  A blood vessel somewhere in the brain gets blocked and the blood can’t flow.  The other kind is a bleed.  A blood vessel bursts and bleeds inside the brain.  Blood flows out of the vessel into the brain tissue, and the oxygen is it carrying does not get to the place where it is supposed to be, where it is needed.  With either a blockage or a bleed a part of the brain does not get the oxygen it needs minute-by-minute to stay alive.  A few minutes with no oxygen kills brain cells, brain tissue.

Well, Actually, A Couple More Types of Strokes

The strokes caused by a blood vessel getting blocked can also divided into 2 types.  One type is a blockage where the blood clotted right in the vessel where it was flowing, a thrombus.  The other type of blockage occurs when a blood clot happens somewhere else in the body and the clot travels through the blood vessel until it gets stuck in the brain, an embolus. 

In addition, there are 2 types of bleeding, or hemorrhagic, strokes.  But for now we’ll stop adding types of strokes.  It can get confusing.

Why a Stroke Looks Like It Does, and Why There Are So Many Different-Looking Strokes

Each part of the brain is connected to some or several parts of the body.  One small area in your brain (the left motor cortex) makes your right leg move.  Another little part lets your left hand feel.  And so on.  Every part of your body is electrically connected by nerves into some area of your brain.  So, what a stroke looks like or feels like depends on which small (or large) areas of the brain are dying.  You might feel a sudden weakness or paralysis of your arm and leg on one side of the body, or just an arm or just a leg, or part of the face.  Your speaking, your words, might become hard to say or make no sense.  Or, the people around the person having a stroke might see that the person having the stoke looks confused.  Or that they cannot understand the conversation.  Their vision might go bad or they might be suddenly blind in one eye, or both eyes.

Strokes Are Common

Strokes are common.  Too common.  There’s nothing unusual or rare about a stroke.  In every country around the world stroke is a major cause of disability.  And a major cause of death.  Of the millions of people worldwide who have a stroke, a 1 out of 3 die and another 1 out of 3 are left permanently disabled.

What Causes Strokes and How to Prevent Them

Preventing strokes is by far the better way to go.  Strokes are hard to treat.  Some can’t be treated.  Once they occur the damage is done.  Those that can be treated must be treated immediately, like, right now.  And with treating strokes, luck becomes involved.  How far away is the nearest Specialized Stroke Center Emergency Department?  How quickly can Emergency Medical Services get to the stroke victim and get the stroke victim to said emergency department?  How soon after the stroke event did someone call 911 to get this cascade of help started?  As the saying goes, “It’s complicated!”

Getting stroke treated involves an element of luck.  Preventing stroke is a sure thing, within your ability to control.

With stroke, truly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure causes 85% of strokes.  So, see your doctor and have your blood pressure checked.  You can use the handy-dandy blood pressure machine in your grocery and drug store.  But don’t rely just on these public machines.  Often these store machines are not accurate.  See your health care provider.  If she/he says your blood pressure is high, get a prescription from her for the medication to treat it.  And then take the medicine.  We mean, really, damn it, take it.  It’s amazing how many people get the medicine and then don’t take it.  Don’t think you don’t need the medication because you feel fine.  You don’t feel high blood pressure.  It’s called a silent killer.  There are no symptoms.  What usually happens is that the person feels fine then suddenly has a stroke.  No warning.

Smoking

Don’t smoke.  It really is that simple.  Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe damages blood vessels.  The plumbing goes from nice, solid, like-new pipes to rusty, corroded pipes ready to burst at any time.  (The proverbial “jury is still out” on vaping.  It certainly does much less damage than any kind of combustible smoking.  But, is the inhaled nicotine itself a risk factor?)  Smoking, in addition to aging your plumbing, also gives a person high blood pressure.  The trouble is, the nicotine from smoking feels like it treats a down mood.  And, nicotine is addictive.  If your mood is too down without smoking ask your doctor for a medicine for depression.  If you’re not depressed and can’t stop smoking, you’re addicted to nicotine.  Find a safer source for nicotine.  Smoking is the most dangerous way to get your nicotine hit.  Stop smoking and start vaping (electronic “cigarettes”).  Or stop smoking and use nicotine patches.  Or, stop smoking and chew nicotine gum.  Do whatever, but stop smoking.  We mean it, really.  It might not feel like the best answer to you, but you’ve got to stop smoking.

When our CEO was treating patients at Scripps Clinic, an elder gentleman from Montana came to see him.  He said that it was so obvious that smoking was shortening the lifespan of members of his family.  His parents and their siblings, his aunts and uncles, all lived into their mid-90s, ranchers in Montana.  None of them smoked.  His siblings and cousins were all smokers.  And were all, one by one, dying in their early 70s.  Story told, from his point of view.  He had stopped smoking.

That Fat in Your Blood

LDL Cholesterol, triglycerides, the fats (lipids) floating in your blood.  While your health care provider is checking your blood pressure, have her draw some blood to measure your cholesterol.  High cholesterol causes atherosclerosis, another way to ruin the plumbing of your blood vessels, weaken the walls, and set everything up for a stroke.  If your cholesterol is high, there are now great medicines to treat it.  Get a prescription, get the medicine, and take it.

The Sugar in Your Blood

Type II diabetes, or high blood sugar.  If lifestyle changes (healthy foods, exercise) aren’t enough to bring your blood sugar down, get a medicine for the diabetes and take it.

Are You Healthy?

If so, great.  If not, get healthy to help prevent strokes.  Eat healthy foods, emphasize vegetables and fruits, balance the diet out with whole grain breads and cereals, healthy proteins (fish, chicken), and healthy oils (olive oil, canola oil).

Exercise.  Move about.  Any is better than none.  Walk.  Take stairs not elevators.  Swim.  Bicycle.  If you can and want to do more, go for it.  But while you’re procrastinating, take a walk.

Helpful links:

National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/stroke

National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Stroke-Information-Page

National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/stroke

National Library of Medicine (United States), Medline Plus

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000726.htm

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/index.htm

National Stroke Association

http://www.stroke.org/

The Mayo Clinic

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stroke/symptoms-causes/syc-20350113