Cerebrovascular Accidents – Signs and Symptoms and Risk Factors

Mature woman with head in hands and eyes closed, close-up

Strokes or cerebrovascular accidents appear when the flow of oxygen-rich blood doesn’t reach anymore a portion of the brain. Without the necessary oxygen, the brain cells start to die after several minutes. In other cases, a sudden bleeding in the brain can lead to similar effects.

When brain cells start to die due to a stroke, the body functions and organs controlled by those cells are also altered. Some of the most common stroke symptoms are a sudden weakness, paralysis and numbness of the face, legs or arms, trouble with speaking and understanding words and phrases or even have trouble with their vision.

Strokes, regardless of their type, require emergency care. If left untreated, strokes can cause brain damage, long-term disability and death.

This is why patients are advised to call immediately for emergency care and never attempt to drive themselves or others who might suffer from a stroke at the hospital. The best approach is calling an ambulance so the medical personnel can start emergency care and procedures on the patient. This can prove life-saving for many stroke sufferers. Remember that every minute counts for stroke patients.

Types of Cerebrovascular Accidents

There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic Strokes occur when an artery that supplies oxygen-filled blood is blocked. This phenomenon usually appears due to blood clots. These strokes can also be divided into two separate categories: thrombotic and embolic. In a thrombotic stroke, a blood clot, a thrombus, forms in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. In embolic strokes, a blood clot or other obstructive matters travel through the blood flow and reach the brain.

Hemorrhagic Strokes occur when an artery in the brain ruptures or bleeds. The pressure from the leaked blood damages brain cells. These strokes are also divided into two categories: intracerebral and subarachnoid. In intracerebral strokes, a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or leaks, while in subarachnoid ischemic strokes, a blood vessel on the surface of the brain leaks or ruptures. However, in both cases, the pressure makes the brain swell, which leads to severe damage to the brain cells.

Causes

Both types of strokes have different causes and different interventions are required to fix the damage. Below we have more details.

Ischemic Stokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks can have multiple causes. For instance, atherosclerosis is a disease which can cause these types of strokes. In this case, fatty substances called plaque builds on the inner artery walls and narrows and hardens those. In some cases, plaque can crack and rupture and reach the brain.

Also, heart conditions and disorders can also lead to strokes or TIA. For instance, atrial fibrillation is a common cause of embolic strokes. In this case, the upper chamber of the heart contract in a chaotic and very fast way, case in which some blood pools into the heart. This increases the blood clot formation risk and thus, the stroke risk.

Hemorrhagic Strokes are usually caused by a sudden bleeding in the brain. The bleeding leads to swelling and thus, damaged brain cells. High blood pressure, aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations are some of the most common causes.

Risk Factors

Habits, pre-existing conditions and traits can raise your risk of suffering from a stroke or a transient ischemic attack. There are commonly known as stroke risk factors and below you will find some of the most common. Keep in mind that the more risk factors are present in a person, the higher the chances of suffering from one.

  • High blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke. Generally, a high blood pressure is considered to be if it stays above 140/90 millimeters of mercury over prolonged periods of time. When associated with other conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes, a high blood pressure is considered to be 130/80 mmHg or higher.
  • Diabetes is a disease in which the blood sugar levels are high due to the body’s inability to making enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps blood sugar to supply cells with energy.
  • Heart diseases can also lead to similar issues as they are in direct correlation with the blood flow and matters that reach the brain in the circulatory process.
  • Smoking can damage blood vessels and increase blood pressure. Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain and second-hand smoking and also affect you, as the medical staff at this HMC hospital
  • Gender and age also play a great role when discussing stroke risk factors. As you get older, your risk of getting a stroke increase. At younger ages, men seem to be more likely to suffer from such issues, but in general, women are those with higher chances of similar issues.
  • Race and ethnicity seem to also play a role, and African-American, Alaska Natives, American Indian, Asian American and Hispanic adults having higher chances of suffering from similar issues.
  • Personal and family history of strokes or TIA. If you suffered from a stroke previously, you have higher chances of having another one. Plus, if there is a history of stroke or TIA in your family, you also have higher chances of having one.
  • Use of alcohol or illegal drugs raises the risk of having a stroke or TIA.
  • Lack of physical activity;
  • Unhealthy diet;
  • Stress and depression.
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, others apart from aspirin can increase the risk of heart attack or strokes. Avoid ibuprofen and naproxen.

First Care in Stokes and TIA

Treatment options for stokes depend on whether a stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. But regardless of what type of stroke the patient has, they have to be immediately taken to the closest emergency care room. If you or somebody else think might have a stroke, don’t attempt to drive them or yourself at the hospital. Call an ambulance and wait for it because the medical team on the ambulance can give proper care and medical attention during the transportation.

To receive further care and interventions, make sure that you choose a highly skilled medical team for surgical interventions.

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