Short answer: A stroke is a serious medical emergency occurring when the supply of blood to the brain is interrupted, which prevents brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients, leading to the death of brain cells.
Your brain needs a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients from blood, supplied by your arteries. Without oxygen and nutrients, your brain cells will die (infarct), and the affected area can suffer permanent damage.
There are 2 main reasons for reduced blood supply: a blood clot or a bleed.
At least 3 in every 200 Australians have had a stroke.
If you suspect someone (or yourself) has suffered a stroke, you need to act FAST.
· Face – Has the face or mouth drooped?
· Arms – Can they lift both arms?
· Speech – Is speech slurred? Do they understand?
· Time is Critical – If you see any of these signs, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance. Early treatment could save their life.
Ischaemic – A clot inside an artery blocks blood supply, starving the brain of oxygen and nutrients. This is caused by narrowing of the arteries due to too much plaque (accumulated cholesterol, fat, or calcium in blood) – is also called atherosclerosis.
There are two types of Ischaemic Stroke:
· Embolic – A blood clot forms elsewhere in the body (often the heart), travels through the bloodstream, then blocks a blood vessel that supplies your brain.
· Thrombotic (or Thrombolytic) – Your brain’s blood supply is blocked because plaque builds up in your artery walls.
Haemorrhagic – The wall of a blood vessel in the brain suddenly breaks, causing blood to flood into the brain and blocking the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. This is often due to long-term high blood pressure but can also be caused by a cerebral aneurysm (a weak spot in an artery wall that bursts from sudden pressure or trauma).
There are two types of haemorrhagic stroke:
· Intercerebal haemorrhage (ICH) – An artery in your brain bursts and bleeds.
· Subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) – A bleed happens in the space surrounding your brain.
Transient Ischaemic Attack – Also called a TIA, or mini stroke, causes stroke-like symptoms for a few minutes and usually disappears within 24 hours. It is caused by a temporary blockage to the brain’s blood supply, creating a higher chance of experiencing a stroke.
· Smoking – Tobacco smoke deposits toxic chemicals in your blood stream, making your blood sticky and more likely to form clots.
· Sedentary behaviour – Not enough physical activity increases your risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other related conditions.
· Unhealthy eating – Too much body fat (obesity) can contribute to high blood pressure, while too much salt in your diet increases blood pressure.
· High cholesterol – Excess low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) in your blood can build up on artery walls.
· Certain medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).
Risk factors you can’t change:
· Your age – Most people who have a stroke (7 out of 10) are 65 years or older.
· Your family history – If one or your parents had a stroke before they were 65, your risk of getting one is 3 times greater than average.
· Your gender – Stroke is more common in men, especially between 65 and 84 years of age.
More than 4 in 5 strokes are preventable. If you have high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol or atrial fibrillation, you may need medication from your GP.
You can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle – stay active, eat well, quit smoking and drink alcohol in moderation.
If you have already had a stroke or TIA, it is even more important to make healthy lifestyle changes.
· Improve your Diet – High fibre, fruit, nuts, vegetables and healthy fats, but low saturated fats and salt.
· Avoid smoking – Smoking cigarettes doubles your risk of having a stroke.
· Physical activity – Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and improves blood circulation.
Our clinicians at WLC Medical can assist with improving your exercise and weight management plans to help prevent stroke and, if you have had a stroke, can help with effective recovery and rehabilitation.