Have you ever known someone who’s suffered a stroke? Have you ever had one yourself? A stroke is something your doctors will warn you about if you’re not taking care of your health.
A stroke is an event where the arteries leading to your brain get damaged. This leads to a loss of function in parts of your body, and even death. What’s even scarier is the fact that a stroke can be silent. That’s right, you could be having a stroke and not even know it. What exactly causes a silent stroke? Are there symptoms? We’re talking all that and more…
First of all, what is a stroke?
With a normal stroke that one might expect, symptoms are usually things like sudden numbness, and weakness. This usually occurs in the face, legs or arms. It’s the number five leading cause of death in the United States, and one of the biggest causes of disability.
We all have blood vessels. These are veins, arteries and capillaries that transport blood throughout your body. A stroke happens when a blood vessel connected to your brain becomes blocked. This stops oxygen and nutrients from reaching your brain.
The damage your brain suffers during this kind of episode is permanent. A stroke can cause long-term disability, and even death. The earlier action is taken to treat the stroke, the less damage will be done.
There are different types of stroke. The first is the ischemic stroke, which is caused by a clot. The brain cells begin to die in minutes. The second is a hemorrhagic, which is caused by a rupture. There is also another type of stroke you need to know about.
A mini-stroke may be relatively minor, but you still don’t want it.
This is when a clot is only temporary. Also known as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, a mini-stroke happens when there’s an interruption of blood flow to your brain, spinal cord or retina.
As a result, a person will experience stroke-like symptoms. These include the usual numbness, as well as a difficulty speaking. While this is obviously pretty scary, it won’t last forever. Your brain cells won’t even be damaged. Sure, this is better than the alternative, but getting through a mini-stroke doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.
You need to take a mini-stroke seriously. This could be a signal that you’re going to suffer an actual stroke one of these times. The risk of stroke is at its highest within 48 hours of a TIA.
What exactly are the symptoms of a stroke?
We’ve mentioned a few stroke signs. Let’s talk about them in a little more detail. There are five major warning signs of a stroke. The first one is something I brushed over a few minutes ago. I’m talking about sudden numbness. The kind you get on your face, as well as in your leg and arm. This usually happens on one side of your body.
Secondly, you will probably experience sudden confusion. You’ll have issues understanding people around you. They’ll also have problems understanding you, as you won’t be speaking properly.
The third sign is dizziness. A person suffering a stroke won’t be able to walk. If they are walking, they won’t be doing it with a lot of balance or coordination.
The fourth sign is a really bad headache that will seemingly come out of nowhere. Your head will just start pounding.
The fifth sign will be issues with your vision. Your eyes will go all blurry, and you won’t be able to make anything out. This can happen in one or both eyes.
So what does this all have to do with a silent stroke?
Well, the problem with a silent stroke is that there won’t be any of these warnings. You won’t even experience sudden confusion. So how does this happen?
Well, you remember how strokes occur when there’s blockage to the brain, right? With a silent stroke, the area of brain damage is so small, the stroke goes almost completely undetected. You could be having this stroke and be going about your daily life.
This is what’s so scary about silent strokes. Remember how I said you need to take early action to reduce the amount of damage? Well how can you take action when you don’t even know the stroke has occurred. A person usually doesn’t realize they’ve suffered the stroke until it shows up on a brain scan. You could have had it weeks ago and not have suspected a thing.
A lot of you may be sitting there trembling. “What if I’m having a stroke right now? Are you sure there aren’t any symptoms? There’s got to be some giveaway, right?” Well, at most you’ll have a bit of trouble getting around. Over time, you’ll start noticing that your balance is off, and walking has become more of a task. You may also have small problems remembering certain details.
While the damage you suffer from your silent stroke may be small, it is permanent. You can receive treatment to help stimulate parts of your brain. This way, you will regain any abilities that have weakened.
So how can you treat a stroke?
Well, there are a number of ways to treat a stroke. After the symptoms have set in, your doctor will do a CT scan on your brain. The X-Ray will show whether or not your brain has suffered a stroke, tumor or severe bleeding. After you’ve been diagnosed, you’ll probably undergo a series of tests. The type of test will depend on the type of stroke.
One of the most common types of tests is a physical exam. This involves checking your blood pressure to see how far it has risen. They’re also going to want to monitor your heart to make sure it’s in a stable condition. On top of that, they’re going to do a number of tests on your brain. This way, they’ll be able to see if your nervous system is working.
A doctor may also do a blood test on you. They’re going to be assessing blood clots and checking for an infection.
Once the testing is finished, and the doctor has assessed just how much damage has been done, they’ll figure out the type of treatment you’ll need to recover. That is if you’re able to recover in the first place.
If you have an ischemic stroke, you may be given a medicine that helps un-clot your blood. The problem is you need this within a certain window of time in order for it to work. Most stroke victims don’t get to the hospital in time.
If it’s a hemorrhagic stroke, you may need something different. Doctors will give you different kinds of medicine. In extreme cases, they may even do surgery to stop the bleeding in your brain and save the tissue.
So what causes a silent stroke, or any stroke for that matter?
Well your risk of a stroke will always go up when your arteries are in danger. This is often brought on by lack of exercise and poor diet.
Think about it, all of the food you eat will eventually turn into plaque that clogs up the arteries, and stops blood from flowing into your heart and reaching your brain. This means the heart has to work extra hard to pump blood now. This is called high blood pressure, and can eventually lead to heart disease.
When you suffer from heart disease, your chances of stroke skyrocket. Your risk of getting a stroke can also increase if you suffer from diabetes. There’s also something known as vascular disease. This is when your blood vessels are damaged to the point where circulation is affected. Vascular disease can directly lead to a stroke if you’re not careful.
So, how can I prevent this from happening?
Well, you can never fully prevent something, but you can decrease the risk. One of the best ways to decrease the risk of stroke is to live a healthier lifestyle. This means to eat healthy and exercise more. If you’re eating nothing but gross, greasy food, your arteries have a better chance of clogging up.
Foods that are high in potassium can help you maintain healthy blood pressure. These are things like bananas, soy beans, tomatoes, certain potatoes and melons. If you’d like to expand your palate and try new things, go for a little bit of spinach every now and then. Spinach is filled with magnesium, which is known to decrease your risk of stroke. Other foods like yogurt, onions, oatmeal and salmon can also work.
As for exercise, well you’re going to want to get at least a couple hours of exercise each week. The more your heart stays active, the less chance it has of suffering. For instance, studies have shown that people who walked at a pace of 6km an hour had a 44% lower risk of stroke.
Experts suggest that you should be walking around 30 minutes each time. This will help you avoid developing disease as you get older. This walking should be mixed in with other activities. Some simple yard work can get your heart pumping.
Outside of exercise and diet, there are a few other things you can do to decrease your stroke risk. Do you smoke cigarettes, well it’s time to quit. Smoking makes you twice as likely to die of a stroke. It’s especially important to quit when you’re younger. This way your body takes time to heal so it’s healthier during the age when you’re at greater risk. Studies show that after 15 years of not smoking, your risk of stroke is the same as that of a non-smoker.
Another thing you can do is go for regular check ups. Make sure you’re getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. The higher both of them are, the greater chance you have of getting a stroke.
Anything dealing with the heart or brain can be scary. There are so many different things that can happen.