Stroke - What You Should Know

Manila Bulletin, December 19, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Stroke - What You Should Know


Senator Albert B. Fall: We have been praying for you, Sir.

President Wilson: "Which way, Senator?"

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)

US President

December 6, 1919. Wilson disabled by stroke was visited by an arch-enemy in the Senate to test his fitness to remain as President. After this exchange, the doubts ended.

O, please, not a stroke!" I can almost hear myself saying this when Im nearing 70 the current expected average lifespan of the Filipino (except for drug dealers, crazy drivers, and unlucky pedestrians). Everyone talks about a heart attack but only some know that there is such as thing as a "brain attack," too. Thats a stroke, or in medical terms, a cerebro-vascular accident.

In many countries, stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, third only to cardiovascular disease and cancer. This medical emergency results from blood supply to the brain getting cut off, depriving sensitive brain tissue from oxygen and nutrients. It only takes a few minutes to damage the brain irreversibly.

How it Happens. About 80% of strokes are of the ischemic type. Blood supply to the brain may be severely compromised when arteries are clogged with cholesterol-laden plaques. These dregs build up in the inner lining of arteries. They harden over time blocking blood flow. In a hemmorhagic stroke, the brain blood vessel leaks or bursts. As blood spreads, brain tissue is damaged.

Risk Factors. Heres where the sins of a lifestyle of excess end. If you have been smoking like a chimney, by now the nicotine has overworked your heart and contributed to the formation of plaques in the arteries. If you have been carnivorous all your life, chances are sky high cholesterol values reflect the plaques in the arteries. Uncontrolled hypertension is a risk factor for both types of stroke. High blood pressure weakens blood vessels making them susceptible to both leaks and blocks.

Signs & Symptoms. In the event of a developing stroke, having insight into whats happening and some bit of luck may keep you from becoming a vegetable. Consider:

* Sudden weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the face, arm, leg (usually on one side only)

* Inability to speak or speaking in a slurred manner

* Inability to understand speech

* Sudden decreased or blurred vision or double vision

* Sudden headache

* Sudden confusion

* Seizures or fainting

Diagnosis.

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