Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide after heart disease. In the U.S. alone, more than 140,000 people die each year from stroke. In a recent analysis by a group of scientists of more than 100 studies from 1990 to 2010, they found that the incidence of storke in people aged from 20-64 has jumped by a quarter whereas these patients make up almost one third of the total number of stroke patients all over the world.
Stroke is defined as a sudden interruption in the blood supply of the brain which could be due to formation of a blood clot in the arteries (ischemic stroke) or due to bleeding into brain tissue cause by a bursting vein (hemorrhagic stroke). Ischemic stroke in itself is divided into two types: thrombotic and embolic strokes.
Thrombotic stroke occurs when diseased or damaged arteries become blocked by the formation of a blood clot within the brain. This is referred to clinically as the cerebral infarction. This type of stroke results in permanent brain damage. Thrombotic stroke is the most common type and it responsible for 50% of total number of strokes worldwide.
Embolic stroke on the other hand occurs when a clot forms in arteries other than cerebral arteries (arteries in the brain). The clot then travels in the blood stream until it becomes lodged thus preventing blood supply to the brain.
Ischemic strokes in general show greater risk for older people and are triggered by common strokes risk factors such as: aging, smoking, diabetes and obesity.
Hemorrhagic stroke could either be due to intracerebral hemorrhage (bleeding inside the cerebrum: the largest portion of the brain), or subarachnoid hemorrhage (subarachnoid space -in the skull, surrounding the brain- is filled with blood). Intracerebral hemorrhage stroke is mainly caused by high blood pressure which is one of the greatest risk factors for stroke in general, while the cause behind subarachnoid hemorrhage stroke is unknown and might be related to birth defects.
Stroke was found by researchers to be more common in East Asia, North America, Europe and Australia than third-world countries. This might be due to the fact that people in those regions die of other ailments before they get old enough to have a stroke. National systems to monitor strokes may be one of the best methods in spreading awareness about signs of stroke and how to avoid having it in the first place. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the main focuses of these systems.
Finding a cure for strokes is difficult but scientists never lose hope. A research group at Lund University, in Sweden has published a study that takes stroke management to a whole different level through stem cell-based treatment. In the study, at two months after transplantation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into the stroke-injured brain cells of rats, the iPSCs matured into nerve cells and resulted in better mobility of the animals.
Warning signs of a stroke are summarized in the word FAST, as devised by the National Stroke Association. FAST stands for face, arms, speech and time. Timely observation of sudden numbness in the face of the patient or confusion, trouble speaking and difficulty in smiling would help in rushing the patient to a hospital as soon as possible. This would minimize the damage, hopefully.
For the younger generation and their high rate of strokes, a healthy lifestyle must be achieved at all costs. Smoke cessation and watching their diets (less salt, calories and alcohol) are two of the most important risk-reducers.
Young people usually dismiss stroke as an elderly disease but according to Dr. Yannick Bejot, at University Hospital of Dijon in France, it is the healthcare professionals’ duty to educate them and help them understand the seriousness of the problem.
Written by: Jaylan Salah
Stroke patients doubling by 2030