A stroke is often referred to as a cerebrovascular accident or a CVA for short. This occurs when the blood vessels in the brain become blocked or burst. When either one of these events occur, the oxygen supply to the brain is cut off. It takes only three minutes of lack of oxygen from arterial supply before the brain cells begin to die. This death of the cells will result in brain damage.
Types and Risk Factors of Strokes
There are ‘mini-strokes’ (Transient Ischemic Attacks –TIA) which leaves people with little to no permanent damage but which are a risk factor for larger strokes. Smaller strokes can leave a person with minor weakness in the arm or leg and others who suffer larger damage to the brain can have paralysis on one side of the body or the other, lose their ability to speak or their memory.
A stroke will fall under one of two main categories. There is an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke. The treatment for these two categories of strokes is very different. It is critical that the type of stroke is defined before treatment starts.
An ischemic stroke is when a major blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked with a blood clot. This type of stroke is treatable if it is diagnosed fast enough.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. This will cause bleeding around the brain or into the brain itself. A person that has high blood pressure and atherosclerosis is at high risk for this type of stroke. The outcome of this type of stroke is poor. Treatment can be risky and can be dangerous to the patient. But advances are being made in the treatment regimen for hemorrhagic strokes.
Risk Factors for Stroke
The factors that increase the risk of strokes are both environmental and genetic. Five of the more uncontrollable risk factors are age, sex, race, family history of diabetes and family history of stroke or TIA. While we can’t control the race or family into which we are born, whether we are male or female or stop the aging process there are risk factors that can be controlled.
In some cases individuals have treatable medical conditions that left untreated increase the risk of stroke. These conditions include diabetes, atrial fibrillation, previous heart attacks, high cholesterol, carotid artery disease, personal history of stroke or TIA, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It isn’t enough to know you have diabetes or heart disease but an individual must also treat the disease appropriately in order to decrease their risk of stroke.
In other cases individuals may be making lifestyle choices that increase their risk of developing either an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke. These include smoking, drinking alcohol, obesity, drug abuse, low estrogen levels and physical inactivity.
Stroke symptoms and prevention are determined by the type of risk factors that an individual recognizes as part of their medical or family history or lifestyle choices. Although family history can’t be changed when coupled with a current medical condition or lifestyle choices they raise the risk of stroke. Individuals who are faced with these conditions must be vigilant about their lifestyle choices and care of their medical conditions.
Early Signs of a Stroke
It is important that you are able to recognize the early signs of a stroke. The earlier a stroke is detected, the better the treatment outcome.
One of the early signs of a stroke may be sudden weakness. The victim may experience numbness or paralysis of the face. The numbness may extend to the arm or leg on one side of the body.
A change in communication skills is often one of the signs of a stroke. The stroke victim may lose their ability to speak. They may have trouble talking, such as finding the right words to communicate. The stroke victim may also lose their ability to understand what is being said to them.
Loss of vision, especially in one eye, is also one of the early signs of a stroke. The stroke victim may also complain of a sudden, severe headache, for which there is no obvious cause.
When a person is having a stroke, he may have complaints of unexplained dizziness. Another of the signs of a stroke that you may notice is the stroke victim having trouble maintaining their balance. Coordination is poor and the person may not be able to remain upright.
Early Detection and Intervention Depends on Identifying the Signs of a Stroke
Early intervention is critical for a favorable outcome in a stroke victim. If a person is having an ischemic stroke, there is medication available that can bust up the clot that is blocking the blood flow to the brain. But the stroke victim has to meet specific criteria and arrive to the emergency room within three hours of the onset of symptoms.
Becoming familiar with the early signs of a stroke may save your life or the life of a loved one. The sooner a stroke is detected, the better the outcome for survival.
Preventing a Stroke
Preventing a stroke in the first place is a very wise choice. People are turning toward herbal and homeopathic remedies as a preventative measure.
- Hawthorn is very good for your cardiovascular health.
- Passiflora incarnate can be used to lower your blood pressure and lessen the tension on the blood vessels.
- Guelder rose bark can be used as a cardiac tonic and also works well to relax the muscles.
- Ginkgo biloba has a positive effect on the circulatory system and encourages your blood to flow more freely.
None of these herbal or homeopathic remedies are meant to replace the advice of a doctor. Using them gives you an advantage in battling the possible occurrence of a stroke and is especially wise if you have a family history of strokes.
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