Brain health: overview of stroke warning signs

If you are like most people, you actively protect your life and work to secure your future. With the rising cases of brain conditions around the world, why not protect your brain too? Stroke or “brain attack” occurs when blood the brain is deprived of blood, resulting in brain failure. Studies show up to 80 percent of stroke types can be prevented by implementing stroke prevention measures with the help of healthcare professionals.

Types of strokes

There are two main types of strokes: stroke caused by bleeding into the brain and stroke caused by blockage of blood flow. The most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke, accounts for about 80 percent of all stroke scases. Ischemic stroke is caused by blockage of blood vessels in the brain or neck.

Blockage of blood vessels may occur when:

1. A clot forms within a blood vessel of the neck or brain, a condition called thrombosis

2. A clot forms in another part of the body like the heart and moves to the brain or neck, a condition called embolism

3. An artery to or from the brain becomes significantly narrows as to obstruct blood flow, a condition called stenosis.

The second type of stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when there is bleeding into the brain or in surrounding spaces of the brain.

Stroke warning signs

The best way to prevent stroke is to catch stroke warning signs early and seek immediate medical help. There are many warning signs for stroke, the most important ones to watch out for include:

- Inexplicable severe headaches

- Sudden weakness or numbness of arms, legs orface, especially on one side of the body

- Sudden trouble understanding speech or talking

- Drowsiness, dizziness or loss of coordination orbalance

- Double vision or trouble seeing on both eyes orin one eye, and

- Nausea or vomiting

Another effective way to prevent stroke is to control stroke risk factors.

Stroke risk factors

Generally, the risk of stroke increases as the number and severity of stroke risk factors increases. Three main stroke risk factors to watch out for are:

  1. Age - your risk of stroke is twice as high for each decade you live between ages 55 and 85,even though stroke can occur in any age group
  2. Gender – men are at a higher risk of developing stroke, but women are more likely to die from stroke
  3. Family history – if you are from a family with genetic tendencies for stroke, you are more likely to suffer stroke.

Stroke factors can be managed by lifestyle changes - which usually include giving up cigarettes, alcoholic drinks, unhealthy food and practicing as much physical activity as possible - as well as medical treatment. However, overall stroke prevention will ultimately hinge on how well you personally control all your risk factors.

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