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The Tranquil Way | Having a look at srokes

Published:Tuesday | July 12, 2016 | 7:00 AM

The brain is the centre of control of the body. Any process that significantly impairs brain function may, therefore, have a devastating impact on the entire body. Having a stroke can have such an impact not only on the individual, but also on close family members.

A stroke (referred to medically as a cerebrovascular accident) is a spontaneous interruption in the blood supply to a section of the brain, resulting in damage to brain tissue, the effects of which extend beyond 24 hours. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancers of all types. It can also leave the victim totally or partially dependent on others due to the physical and intellectual disability that it may cause. It can, therefore, negatively affect the productivity of not only the victim, but also family members and create an unwelcome expense for them.

There are two types of strokes: ischaemic and haemorrhagic. In an ischaemic stroke the artery in a section of the brain develops a blockage to the extent that the blood supply to the area dependent on it becomes inadequate to keep it alive. Brain cells die if the duration of blockage exceeds three hours. The clot may develop at the site of the blockage or may have come from a distant location. In a haemorrhagic stroke, there is a break in a blood vessel in the brain causing blood to escape into the brain tissue. This reduces the blood flow to the dependent area and causes compression of and damage to surrounding areas.

 

THE SYMPTOMS

 

The symptoms of stroke depend on the area of the brain that is affected. The most common manifestation is weakness on one side of the body.

Interestingly, if the left side of the brain is affected, then the right side of the body is affected and vice versa. Other symptoms include loss of speech, confusion, distortion of the face, loss of balance, visual disturbances, loss of the ability to swallow, headache, and even sudden death. However, some strokes are silent, showing no obvious signs.

Strokes are more common among those with diabetes mellitus, hypertension, high cholesterol, a smoking habit, and the elderly. It may also occur in those with sickle cell disease, HIV infection, a sedentary lifestyle, and atrial fibrillation.

Treatment to get rid of the clot must be given within three hours. After this, only rehabilitation is possible.