Understanding Stroke: Preventative Care & Treatment Post-Stroke
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A stroke is defined as rapid loss of brain function caused by the sudden death of brain cells. The brain requires a constant supply of blood for proper function. The blood carries much needed oxygen and nutrients to the brain via arterial blood vessels. A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain
is interrupted, either due to a blockage of the blood ves-
sel resulting in the brain not receiving the blood it needs to function, or a rupture of the blood vessel, spilling blood into the brain. The traumatized brain cells usually die resulting in loss of function.
Other common terms for stroke include cerebral vascular disease (CVD), cerebral vascular accidents (CVA), and older terms like cerebral apoplexy. With high fatality and disability rates following strokes, it is estimated that about 800,000 people suffer stokes each year. It is a leading cause of long term disability in the United States and the 4th lead- ing cause of death in the United States.
The signs and symptoms of a stroke will be sudden and are dependent on the location of the stroke in the brain. Signs and symptoms may include weakness or numbness of an arm, leg, or face on one side of the body, difficulty walk- ing or loss of balance, dizziness, loss of vision in one eye, inability to form or comprehend speech, severe headaches, fainting, loss of consciousness, and coma.
Strokes can be very individualized, the signs and symptoms of a stroke depend upon which artery is affected and where the artery is affected in relation to the area of the brain that the artery supplies blood to. A basic understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the brain as well as the arteries that supply the brain is useful. By knowing where the stroke has occurred, one can better understand how the patient will be affected by the stroke.