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All you need to know about strokes

Rohan beat the early morning Colombo traffic to arrive at his office quite early. Not sure if it was from the festivities of his sixtieth birthday party last evening or the stress of the early morning drive, but he had numbness in his head. Hoping it wasn't the onset of a migraine episode, he fumbled in his desk for some pain reliever. His vision seemed blurry, and he realised his right hand appeared lifeless. Feeling alarmed, he stood up only to feel extremely dizzy. He tried to call out to his colleague, but could not articulate his words. Roshan was suffering from a STROKE.

What is a stroke? 

A stroke can simply be defined as an attack on the brain. It happens when the blood supply to your brain is cut off when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. The loss of blood to the brain means a loss of oxygen and the brains cells become injured and die.

A stroke can kill or leave you with a permanent disability. It is necessary to have an uninterrupted supply of blood to the brain since the blood transports essential nutrients and oxygen, without which your brain cells will die. 

Our brains control everything we do, think and feel – actions that we take for granted like being able to move, speak, understand, remember, see and deal with our feelings. If the part of your brain that controls any of these activities is damaged, your ability to do them is also affected.

What are the signs of a stroke?

Once a stroke hits, its effects have a disastrous effect on mind and body. Some of the common symptoms include:

      • numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body
      • slurred speech, or difficulty finding words or understanding speech
      • sudden blurred vision or loss of sight
      • confusion or unsteadiness, or
      • a sudden, severe headache.

 

How do you know if you have suffered from a stroke or someone in front of you is suffering from stroke?

The effects of strokes are immediate. The following test known as a “FAST” test will indicate whether a person is developing a stroke.

      • Face: Try and smile, if one side of your face drops, then there is cause for alarm.
      • Arms: Try and raise both arms. Is one higher than the other? Do you have a hard time holding one up?
      • Speech: Repeat a short, simple sentence, to see if your words are slurred and not articulate.
      • Time: If any of these are "yes," you have to seek medical help immediately.

 

There are varying degrees of strokes suffered. In a transient ischemic attack (TIA), there is a temporary interruption in the blood flow to a part of the brain. Most TIAs last only a few minutes. The warning signs of a TIA are the same as the warning signs of a stroke. TIAs are "warning strokes" as they are an indication that a full, far more serious stroke is about the happen. This is the best time to get treatment as precaution is essential.

Ischemic stroke is accountable for 80% of all strokes. During an ischemic stroke, the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain is blocked by a blood clot causing the victim to be faced with the full consequences of a stroke. Depending on the severity of the stroke, sufferers are left with effects of the stroke or in worst cases, death. According to the National Stroke Association of Sri Lanka, 1 in every 100 Sri Lankans are affected by a stroke, which means that, 4 minutes ago someone died of a stroke. 

 

How to prevent strokes

As with any disease, if early precautions are taken, then you can minimise your risks. Here are some ways to keep a track of your health and prevent ill-health:

      • Monitor and control your blood pressure.
      • Monitor and control your cholesterol.
      • Keep your blood sugar under control.
      • If you smoke, quit.
      • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Cut back on fat, salt, and sugar.
      • Get regular exercise.
      • Keep a healthy weight.
      • And most importantly, do not ignore a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or mini-stroke symptoms that can be a warning sign.