What is a Stroke?

doctor checking blood pressure

Imagine the almost 2,000 gallons of blood that are pumped each day stopped reaching the brain. Suddenly, a blockage in the brain arises abruptly causing you to have intense difficulty in walking, speaking, and understanding. These are all symptoms of a stroke. Historically, strokes affect around 40 people a second in the United State alone. Unfortunately, this is worsening on the global scale with 15 billion people suffering a stroke each year. There are a couple of simple fundamentals that are easy to understand on what a stroke is and who is affected, how to identify signs of a stroke, and what is the best method of prevention. 

Sadly, a stroke can happen to anyone. The wide range of risk factors makes it almost impossible to be safe from a stroke. The National Heart Blood and Lung Institute note a couple of risk factors for a stroke. As listed below, these risk factors drastically increase the probability of a stroke.

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart and blood vessel diseases. Conditions that can cause blood clots or other blockages include coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, heart valve disease, and carotid artery disease.
  • High LDL cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Age. A stroke can happen at any age, but the risk is higher for babies under the age of 1 and for adults. In adults, the risk increases with age.

More specifically, Circulation Research founds that the Framingham study reported that the probability of a stroke increases two-fold when in the presence of cardiac heart disease, increased three-fold when coupled with hypertension, increased four-fold with cardiac failure, and increased more than five-fold with atrial fibrillation. Such risk factors only worsen when paired with unhealthy lifestyles or a history of health complications. Alas, those that are affected reap the blood-curdling results of a stroke. Those that experience a stroke experience a sudden weakness including the inability to walk, speak and understand. Even those that are undergoing a stroke generally feel little to no pain. The rupture of a brain vessel or a blockage usually begins with severe headaches, dizziness, headaches, and trouble walking. Thankfully, the long-term effects of a stroke can be minimized with early identification. 

Currently, education surrounding strokes is low. With strokes occurring so often, identifying a stroke is increasingly more important. A quick way to identify a stroke is to remember FAST. FAST stands for:

F: Facial numbness or weakness, especially on one side

A: Arm numbness or weakness, especially on one side

S: Slurred speech or difficulty speaking

T: Time to call 911

Critically, telling those that can help you with a stroke faster increases the chance to live from a stroke. Due to the intensity of consequences that one can have from a stroke, identifying these key characteristics can be the difference between life and death. 

With the best in mind, there are a couple of ways in which someone can decrease the chance in which a stroke can occur. Harvard Health finds that exercise is the main one. Like always, a healthy mind and healthy body ultimately increase the efficiency and durability of it. Additionally, quitting tobacco and decreasing alcohol intake aid in lowering the risk. Albeit, age, race, and ethnicity are non-negotiable factors when it comes to chances of a stroke. Being able to accommodate for what you can control is a critical factor when dealing with strokes. To help, diagnosis is also an essential part of identifying and accommodating for a stroke. 

Undergoing a CT scan, MRI, CT angiogram, and electrocardiogram are all methods in which a physician can identify a risk factor for stroke. Especially due to the nature of a stroke, the heart has drastic implications on the beginning of the medical phenomenon.

This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.

Yesh Dhruva Headshot

Yesh Dhruva is a current freshman at Saint Louis University located in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a biology major and in the Medical Scholars program with Conditional Acceptance into Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine. Yesh has aided Dr. Agarwal and fellow investigators to write abstracts for the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography and the American College of Cardiology. Additionally, he enjoys spending his free time with family and friends.

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