A stroke is serious medical event that directly affects the arteries leading to, and within, your brain. Occurring when the blood vessels leading from your heart to your brain become blocked, either by fat residues or damaged blood vessels and pressure causes them to rupture, strokes are a leading cause of serious long-term disability, with someone in the United States having a stroke every 40 seconds, according to the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC).
What is the link between hypertension and strokes?
While high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, it is a contributing factor in around half of all strokes, making it the biggest single risk factor for suffering a stroke. In people with high blood pressure (hypertension), the heart beats faster, which increases the pressure in the blood vessels. A high blood pressure level can put a strain on all of the blood vessels in your body, including the ones that lead to your brain. This strain can damage your blood vessels and cause them to become harder and narrower — a condition called atherosclerosis. In turn, this leaves more room for a blockage to develop, which could cause a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), otherwise called a mini stroke.
Monitoring your blood pressure regularly is the first step in preventing strokes.
Monitoring your blood pressure is a great way to tell if you’re at risk of having a stroke. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association revealed that hypertensive patients who have already suffered a stroke but control their blood pressure from home are less likely to suffer another stroke. Measuring your blood pressure is a quick, simple and painless task. While a blood pressure reading is typically taken at a physician’s office, you can easily do it yourself at home. The American Heart Association provides a helpful guide to learn how to safely and accurately take your own blood pressure.
Stroke symptoms can vary depending on the affected area.
Knowing the warning signs and symptoms allows you to act fast if you or someone you know is having a stroke. Numbness, weakness, tingling or vision loss can all be signs of a stroke. Symptoms can also include confusion, changes in your level of consciousness, trouble speaking, trouble understanding speech, vertigo and balance problems.
Your brain is divided into four different lobes: occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal. Depending on the area where the stroke occurs, some of the functions typically associated with that lobe may be affected or become impaired. For example, a stroke that affects the occipital lobe can affect sight, but a stroke in the parietal lobe may affect activities such as speaking, writing and your ability to understand sensory information. Furthermore, patients who have had a stroke in their frontal lobe may feel confused, have noticeable behavior problems and have trouble solving complex issues, while those who have had a stroke in their temporal lobe may struggle with speech difficulties known as aphasia.
Strokes can also occur in the cerebellum, basal ganglia or brain stem. Patients who suffer strokes in these areas may experience problems related to coordination and balance as well as impairment of some of their most basic functions.
Recovering from a stroke
Strokes are life-threatening occurrences that can significantly affect a person’s health and quality of life. While recovery time often depends on the area of the brain affected and how the particular patient reacts to the disease, it is possible for stroke patients to regain mobility and independence with the help of physical therapist, dieticians and the support of family and friends.
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