Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Nearly six million die and another five million are left permanently disabled.
Stroke is the second leading cause of disability, after dementia. Disability may include loss of vision and/or speech, paralysis and confusion. Globally, stroke is the second leading cause of death above the age of 60 years, and the fifth leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 59 years old.
Stroke is less common in people under 40 years, although it does happen. In young people, the most common causes are high blood pressure or sickle cell disease. In many developed countries, the incidence of stroke is declining even though the actual number of strokes is increasing because of the ageing population. In the developing world, however, the incidence of stroke is increasing. In China, 1.3 million people have a stroke each year and 75% live with varying degrees of disability as a result of stroke. The predictions for the next two decades suggest a tripling in stroke mortality in Latin America, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. The loss of blood to the brain means a loss of oxygen and the brains cells become injured and die. A stroke can kill or leave you with a permanent disability.
In a transient ischemic attack (TIA) there is a temporary interruption in the blood flow to a part of the brain. Most TIAs last only a few minutes. The warning signs of a TIA are the same as the warning signs of a stroke. TIAs are sometimes referred to as “warning strokes” as they may be an indication that a full, far more serious stroke is about the happen.
Ischemic stroke is accountable for 80% of all strokes. During an ischemic stroke, the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain is blocked. This usually happens because of blood clots in an artery to the brain or a narrowing of the arteries (carotid stenosis) blocking or impeding the blood flow. In a hemorrhagic stroke, an artery in the brain bursts. There are two main types of hemorrhagic stroke. An intracerebral hemorrhage happens when a blood vessel in the brain leaks blood into the brain. A subarachnoid hemorrhage happens when there is bleeding under the outer membranes of the brain and into the thin fluid-filled space that surrounds the brain. This type of hemorrhage can cause extensive damage to the brain and is the most lethal of all strokes.
Knowing the warning signs of stroke and seeking immediate medical help can improve the outcome of the stroke. The symptoms of stroke appear suddenly and often there is more than one symptom at the same time. All strokes happen FAST.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or legs.
- Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.
- Sudden loss of vision in half the visual field.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The above information is gathered from the World Heart Federation