Learn about Strokes

The Disease, Risk, Preventions, Treatment, and Affects

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a heart disease that occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is severely reduced. It deprives the brain tissue of food and oxygen. The brain cells begin to die within minutes.


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What are the risk behaviors?

Anyone can have a stroke, no matter your age, gender, or race. But the chance of having a stroke can increase if a person has certain risk factors that can cause a stroke. There is good news though, 8% of strokes can be prevented. There are two types of risk factors for stroke: controllable and uncontrollable. Controllable risk factors are broken down in to two categories: lifestyle risk factors or medical risk factors. Medical risk factors can usually be treated while lifestyle risk factors can often be changed. Both types can be managed. Uncontrollable risk factors include being over the age of 55, being male, being African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander, or having a family history of strokes.


Here are more examples of controllable and uncontrollable risk factors:


Controllable:


  • High Blood Pressure
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Circulation Problems
  • Tobacco Use and Smoking
  • Alcohol Use
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Obesity


Uncontrollable:


  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Family History
  • Previous Stroke or TIA
  • Fibromuscular Dysplasia
  • Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO or Hole in the Heart


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Prevention

  • Know blood pressure (hypertension): High blood pressure is a major stroke risk factor is left untreated. Have your blood pressure checked yearly.
  • Stop Smoking: Smoking DOUBLES the risk of stroke. It damages blood vessel walls, raises blood pressure, speeds up artery clogging, and essentially makes the heart work harder.
  • Identify atrial fibrillation (Afib): Afib is an abnormal heartbeat. It can increase stroke risk by 500%. Afib can cause blood to pool in the heart and it may form a clot which causes a stroke. A doctor can diagnose and treat Afib.
  • Control alcohol use: Alcohol has been linked to many stroke studies. Doctors recommend not drinking or drinking in moderation. (this means no more than two drinks each day)
  • Control diabetes: Many people with diabetes have health problems that are stroke risk factors. A doctor and dietician can help manage these.
  • Manage exercise/diet: Excess weight strains the circulatory system. Exercise five times a week and maintain a diet low in calories, salt, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Know cholesterol levels: Cholesterol is a fatty substance in blood that is made by the body. It also comes in food. High cholesterol can clog arteries which causes a stroke. Your cholesterol level should be no more than 200.
  • Treat circulation problems: Fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain. This will lead to a stroke. Other problems such as server anemia and sickle cell disease should be treated.
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is a temporary episode of stroke-like symptoms that can last from a few minutes to 24 hours. It usually does not cause any permanent damage or disability. TIA and stroke symptoms are the same. Recognizing and treating a TIA can reduce stroke risk although 40% of people who experience TIA may have a stroke

Treatment

  • tPA: This is an enzyme found in the body that activates plasminogen into another enzyme to dissolve a blood clot. It may be used in an IV to speed up the dissolving of a clot. tPA should be given within three hours of symptom onset.
  • Thrombolytics: This is a category of drug that helps reestablish blood flow to the brain by dissolving clots. To be effective, thrombolytic therapy should be given as quickly as possible.
  • MERCI Retrieval System: This treatment is for patients who are ineligible for IV-tPA or fail to respond to IV-tPA. This system can be used for people who are beyond the 3-hour time window and it does not have a certain time limit for its intended use. The Merci Retriever has been proven to restore blood flow in the larger vessels of the brain by removing clots. The system is a tiny cork-screw device that works by wrapping around the clot and trapping it. The clot is then retrieved and removed from the body.
  • Penumbra System: This system allows for safe revascularization of occluded vessels after an ischemic stroke. It also helps restore brain blood flow by using suction to grab clots in the brain for treatment of ischemic stroke. This system works when it is used within 8 hours.
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After Affects

Recovery after a stroke is a lifelong process for everyone impacted by this event. Some people may recover fully while other struggle and may never fully recover. Strokes effect physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. Many stroke patients may have a hard time sleeping, blurred vision, and seizures after their stroke. They may also have a hard time remembering certain things and may be depressed. The caregivers/family members of the stroke patient will then need to help with doctor appointments, financial and transportation matters, provide support, and assist the patient with daily activities such as personal care and hygiene. The after affects of having a stroke can be difficult, but there are people there who will help you to get through it and you will slowly start to recover day by day.
All of the information came from the national stroke association.