Blockage of blood circulation can lead to a lack of oxygen reaching the brain, which is essential for its health and proper functioning. The brain requires a continuous supply of oxygen, and this is achieved through two main arterial pathways: the carotid arteries on either side of the front of the neck and the basilar artery at the base of the skull, which originates from the vertebral arteries running up along the spine. Ensuring regular blood flow to these arteries is essential to maintain brain health.
The base of the brain is where multiple routes come together, forming an artery on the lower side. This artery, located at the base of the brain, gives rise to smaller arteries when the internal carotid arteries divide, supplying oxygenated blood to more than 80% of the cerebrum. A stroke occurs when there is a decrease or interruption in blood flow to the brain. Even a brief blockage can have devastating consequences, leading to brain damage or death. Strokes can be either ischemic, caused by arterial blockage, or hemorrhagic, caused by a tear in an artery’s wall resulting in bleeding into or around the brain.
The impact of a stroke, the functions it affects, and its severity depend on the location within the brain and the extent of the damage. Ischemic strokes are the most prevalent type, accounting for over 80% of all strokes. Ischemia refers to a lack of oxygen in critical tissues. These strokes are typically caused by one of three types of blood clots: Thrombotic or artery stroke and Atherosclerosis. Thrombotic strokes make up approximately 60% of all strokes and usually occur when an artery leading to the brain is obstructed by a thrombus (blood clot) that forms due to atherosclerosis (also known as the hardening of the arteries). These types of strokes are also sometimes called large-artery strokes. The process leading to thrombotic stroke is intricate and develops over time.
The walls of the arteries gradually thicken, harden, and constrict, leading to a reduction in blood flow, a condition called stenosis. As these processes continue, blood flow slows down. Other factors contribute to the onset of a stroke: The arteries become calcified, lose their flexibility, and become prone to tearing. In such cases, a blood clot (thrombus) forms. This clot then obstructs the already narrowed artery and deprives part of the brain of oxygen, causing a stroke. Embolic Strokes and Atrial Fibrillation. An embolic stroke typically occurs when a dislodged blood clot (embolus) travels through the blood vessels until it becomes lodged in an artery. Various conditions may lead to embolic strokes.
Approximately 15% of embolic strokes are caused by the initial formation of blood clots due to a rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation. These clots can originate from artificial heart valves and pose an increased risk for patients with heart valve disorders like mitral stenosis when combined with atrial fibrillation. Additionally, emboli can occur after a heart attack or in connection with heart failure. In rare cases, emboli may form from fat particles, tumour cells, or air bubbles travelling through the bloodstream.
Lacunar strokes, on the other hand, are tiny ischemic strokes that lead to symptoms such as clumsiness, weakness, and emotional variability. They account for most silent brain infarctions and are likely linked to chronic high blood pressure. These strokes fall under the category of thrombotic stroke and can sometimes act as warning signs for a major stroke.
Silent brain infarctions are common among elderly individuals, with up to half of those undergoing imaging tests for reasons other than stroke showing evidence of these small, symptomless strokes. The presence of silent infarctions is linked to a higher likelihood of future stroke and can contribute to cognitive decline in older adults. Smokers and individuals with hypertension are especially vulnerable. Additionally, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) pose a similar risk.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief episode during which an individual experiences stroke-like symptoms for less than 24 hours, typically lasting 1-2 hours. TIAs are caused by small emboli (clots often made of calcium and fatty plaque) lodged in an artery leading to the brain. These clots usually disintegrate quickly, but they temporarily obstruct the blood supply to the brain. A TIA is often seen as a warning sign that a full-blown stroke may occur in the future if preventive measures are not taken. It is crucial to take TIAs seriously and treat them as aggressively as strokes. Hemorrhagic Stroke: Approximately 20% of strokes result from sudden bleeding into or around the brain. While hemorrhagic strokes are less common than ischemic strokes, they tend to be more fatal.
Hemorrhagic strokes are classified based on their location and manner of occurrence. One type, known as parenchymal or intracerebral hemorrhagic strokes, results from bleeding within the brain tissue and is often caused by high blood pressure and arterial damage from atherosclerosis. Another type, subarachnoid hemorrhagic strokes, happens when a blood vessel on the brain’s surface bursts, releasing blood into the space between the brain and skull; these are usually due to an aneurysm rupture. Additionally, arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke if it occurs in the brain and ruptures. Patients who have had heart attacks and received blood-thinning drugs may have a slightly higher risk of experiencing this type of stroke.
Individuals at risk of stroke and their caregivers should know the common symptoms. It is crucial for the person experiencing a stroke to seek immediate medical attention when these warning signs manifest. Those who suffer from migraines or frequent severe headaches must learn to differentiate between their regular headaches and the symptoms of a stroke. Time is a critical factor in the treatment of strokes, as studies indicate that patients receive swifter care when arriving at the hospital by ambulance rather than through self-transportation. If any warning signs of stroke, such as sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, are observed, it is imperative to dial 911 for emergency assistance without delay.
The sudden onset of confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding, sudden vision problems in one or both eyes, sudden difficulty with walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, and a sudden and severe headache without a known cause are all signs of a stroke. A helpful way to remember these signs and what to do is through the acronym F.A.S.T. If you suspect that you or someone else is experiencing a stroke, the National Stroke Association’s F.A.S.T. test recommends the following: (F)ACE. Ask the person to smile and check for drooping on one side of the face. (A)RMS. Ask the person to raise both arms and observe if one arm drifts downward. (S)SPEECH. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and assess for slurred speech or incorrect replication of the sentence.
Urgent action is crucial when someone displays symptoms of a stroke. It’s essential to seek medical attention and call 9-1-1 quickly. Recognising the signs and acting promptly can significantly affect the outcome. Both transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) and early ischemic strokes share similar symptoms, but in the case of a TIA, these symptoms typically resolve within 24 hours. The specific symptoms depend on the location of the brain injury, which is usually in either the carotid or basilar arteries.
Newborns often develop jaundice, causing their skin to appear slightly yellow. This condition is usually temporary and not cause for concern. However, in rare cases, jaundice can become more serious, so infants need to be monitored for it.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.
Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more
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