Often we hear people use stroke, heart attack and cardiac arrest interchangeably. The three are quite different, so let’s first start by understanding each of them.
Stroke: When a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts. Also called a brain attack.
Heart attack: When blood flow to the heart is blocked. This is a circulation problem.
Cardiac arrest: When the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. This is an electrical problem.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. This loss of blood supply can be ischemic because of lack of blood flow, or hemorrhagic because of bleeding into brain tissue.
What are the risk factors that contribute in making you prone to a stroke?
Lifestyle risk factors
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Heavy or binge drinking
- Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines
Medical risk factors
- High blood pressure
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.
- High cholesterol.
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Cardiovascular disease
- Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack.
What should one do if someone they’re with seems to be getting a stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency because strokes can lead to death or permanent disability. The patient, family, or bystanders, should call emergency medical services immediately. First, you should do the FAST test.
Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise up?
Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
What are the complications that arise after a stroke?
A stroke can cause temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the brain lacked blood flow and which part was affected. Some complications include:
- Paralysis or loss of muscle movement.
- Difficulty talking or swallowing.
- Memory loss or thinking difficulties.
- Emotional problems.
- Pain, like numbness or other strange sensations in parts of their bodies affected by stroke.
A stroke can happen to anyone, at any time. Temporary stroke symptoms are called transient ischemic attacks, and are warning signs before the actual strokes. Having said that, up to 80% of strokes are preventable. It’s best advised, considering our lifestyle today, to go for regular annual health checks and keep ourselves in good health.