What you need to know about strokes
Having a transient ischaemic attack puts you at greater risk of having a full-blown stroke.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients.
Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. It is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment to minimise brain damage and potential complications.
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to fluctuate or disappear.
- Trouble with speaking and understanding.
- Confusion. Slurred speech and difficulty understanding speech.
- Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg.
- One side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
- Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes.
- Headache. A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness.
- Stumbling, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
A stroke may be caused by a blocked artery (ischaemic stroke) or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke). Some people may experience only a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain (transient ischaemic attack, or TIA).
It could be due to a blood clot forming in one of the arteries that supply blood to your brain. A clot may be caused by fatty deposits (plaque) that build up in arteries and cause reduced blood flow (atherosclerosis) or other artery conditions.
Sometimes a clot happens when a blood clot or other debris forms away from your brain — commonly in your heart — and is swept through your bloodstream to lodge in narrower brain arteries.
Brain haemorrhages can result from many conditions that affect your blood vessels, including uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension), overtreatment with anticoagulants and weak spots in your blood vessel walls (aneurysms).
An intracerebral haemorrhage happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and spills into the surrounding brain tissue, damaging brain cells. High blood pressure, trauma, vascular malformations, use of blood-thinning medications may cause an intracerebral haemorrhage.
A subarachnoid hemorrhage happens when an artery on or near the surface of your brain bursts and spills into the space between the surface of your brain and your skull. This bleeding is often signalled by a sudden, severe headache.
Transient ischaemic attack
It is also known as a mini-stroke, it is a brief period of symptoms similar to those you’d have in a stroke. A temporary decrease in blood supply to part of your brain causes TIAs, which often last less than five minutes.
It also occurs when a clot or debris blocks blood flow to part of your brain. A TIA doesn’t leave lasting symptoms because the blockage is temporary. Having a TIA puts you at greater risk of having a full-blown stroke.
More risk factors
- Personal or family history
- Being age 55 or older
- Race – Africans and Asians have a higher risk
- Gender – Men have higher risk
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy or binge drinking
- Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines
- Cigarette smoking
- Heart disease