There are an estimated 17 million strokes occurrences worldwide every year. According to WHO, stroke is the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide.

Stroke is a medical emergency which occurs when a part of the brain does not get enough oxygen due to which the brain tissue starts dying. The oxygen supply to the brain can be interrupted or severely reduced due to multiple reasons like rupture of blood vessels in the brain which is called haemorrhagic stroke or narrowing of blood vessel due to a blood clot which is called ischemic stroke.There is another form of stoke which is called ‘Transient Ischemic Attack’ in which the symptoms of stroke come and go, but it is still as dangerous as haemorrhagic or ischemic stroke because it can evolve into a full-fledged stroke in future.

Stroke is more likely to affect people if they are overweight, aged 55 or older, have a personal or family history of stroke, do not exercise much, drink heavily, smoke, or use illicit drugs.

The symptoms of stroke includes-

  • Trouble with speaking and understanding
  • Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg
  • Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden unexplained Headache which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness.
  • Trouble with walking

If you notice any signs or symptoms of the stroke even if they are mild or fluctuating, think “FAST” and do the following:

  1. Ask the person to smile and see if one side of ‘F’ace is drooping.
  2. Ask the person to raise both ‘A’rms and see if one arm is drifting downwards.
  3. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and see if his ‘S’peech is slurring or unusual.
  4. Note the ‘T’ime and immediately call for emergency assistance.

Note that, in case of stroke, by every minute the diagnosis and treatment is delayed it becomes increasingly difficult to save the patient and prevent permanent paralysis.

Apart from physical examination for the diagnosis of stroke, a physician might use cerebral angiogram, carotid ultrasound, CT Scan or MRI to locate the site of stroke. Sometimes the clot is formed in other part of body like heart and gets lodged in brain vessels. In that case physician needs to do blood tests or 2D Echo to find underlying cause of clotting.

Depending upon the type of stroke, treatment approaches can be different. Ischemic stroke are caused by arteries being blocked or narrowed, so treatment focusses on restoring the blood flow. This can be done by administering clot dissolving drugs (Thrombolysis) through injections but it has to be done within 4.5 hours from the time of appearance of symptoms. If it is not possible then the clot is taken out of the artery with the help of certain devices.

Haemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding into the brain, so the treatment focusses on controlling the bleed and reducing the blood pressure in the brain. Treatment begins with drugs to reduce overall blood pressure, prevent seizures and prevent sudden constriction of blood vessel. Then a surgery might be performed to repair any problem with blood vessel that have led to haemorrhagic stroke.

While stroke incidence and mortality rates in high income countries have been onthe decline, progress is still slow. There are also indications that therisk factors for stroke such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes and smoking arebecoming increasingly prevalent in India.In Chhattisgarh, tobacco chewing and Gudakhu are additional risk factors which are substantially affecting the progress on stroke prevention in this part of the country.Avoiding these risk factors and adapting a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in decreasing deaths and disability rates caused due to stroke.

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