Perils of brain stroke and how to prevent it

By Dr. Vivek Kumar in Neurology

Nov 29 , 2022 | 2 min read

A brain stroke can happen anytime and at any age. In India, there are around 4,500 incidents of brain stroke every day, which equals three people per minute; these occurrences are rising due to changing lifestyles, and brain stroke is the leading cause of disability worldwide in India. It is the second leading cause of death. However, simple measures can prevent about 90% of brain strokes.

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off. Without blood, the brain cells get damaged. There are two types of brain strokes - Ischemic and Hemorrhagic.

Ischemic strokes:

These occur due to an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. An obstruction of blood flow can form a blood clot in the brain. This is called Cerebral Thrombosis. Blood vessels can also be blocked by a blood clot formed in another part of the body, usually the heart or large arteries of the upper chest and neck, which travels to the brain. This is called a cerebral embolism.

Haemorrhagic strokes:

These happen when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Hypertension is the most common cause of this incident. The bleeding can be caused by an aneurysm or an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

Recognising the early signs of a stroke and treating it as a medical emergency by getting admitted to a specialised Stroke Centre with a dedicated stroke team can improve the outcome.

The main symptoms of a stroke can be checked with the word FAST. 

  • Face - Is the face drooping to one side? 

  • Arms - Is there a Weakness in one arm? 

  • Speech - Is the speech slurred or garbled? 

  • Time - If these symptoms occur, it’s time to call the emergency services.

Treatment of ischemic stroke

Key facts of ischemic stroke treatment:

  • Early recognition makes a high difference. Knowing the signs of a stroke and getting treated quickly saves lives and improves recovery. About one in 10 people recover when cared for in a specialised stroke unit.

  • Clot-busting drugs (TPA for thrombolysis) increase the chance of good outcomes by 30%. This treatment can be administered within 4.5 hours of the symptoms manifesting. The earlier it is given, the better the effect.

  • Clot-retrieval treatment increases the chances of a good outcome by 50%. This involves removing a blood clot, improving survival rates, and reducing disability in ischemic stroke caused by artery blockage. 

  • Rehabilitation is a critical step in the treatment process.

  • One in four survivors may suffer from another stroke. Treatments that prevent another stroke include drugs to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, anti-patient therapies, anti-coagulation for atrial fibrillation surgery, or stenting for patients with Severe carotid artery narrowing.

  • Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of another stroke; Changes include eating well, being physically active, being tobacco-free, managing stress, and limiting alcohol consumption.