Stroke - risk unknown?

The result of the study carried out for the "Stroke Competence Network" at the Berlin Charité could hardly be less worrying: one in three in the Federal Republic knows no single risk factor for stroke. This is despite the fact that stroke is the third most frequent cause of death and the most common cause of acquired disability in adulthood in Germany.

Not only with old people

More than 150, 000 people a year suffer a first stroke, around 40% die within a year. Almost two-thirds of all stroke patients are subsequently disabled and depend on outside help. Strokes are the result of acute circulatory disorders of the brain. As a result, the nerve cells in the brain receive too little oxygen and nutrients and die. A stroke is also referred to as apoplexy, brain insult or cerebral infarction. The consequences of a stroke for each patient depends on which part of the brain is affected and how severe the circulatory disorder is. Speech disorders, paralysis or blindness are common. Basically every person can suffer a stroke, even children. However, the risk increases in old age. According to the Stroke Competence Network, every second affected person is of working age, and an estimated 5% of them are younger than 40 years old.

Emergency stroke

A stroke is always an emergency and a reason for immediate medical intervention! Although the symptoms of a stroke are different and are often not taken seriously - if a stroke is suspected, the emergency doctor must be called immediately and the patient should go to a hospital. Because the brain has no pain receptors, the stroke symptoms - unlike, for example, pain in heart attacks - are often not associated with the acutely lethal disease. There is an urgent suspicion of a stroke with these symptoms:

  • Sudden asymmetry of the face (one side "hangs")
  • Paralysis of an arm or leg of a body side
  • Furry or numb feeling of an arm, a leg or even a whole body side
  • Speech disorders and speech loss
  • Acute onset visual impairment, limitation of the visual field
  • acute blindness
  • inexplicable dizziness (especially with other neurological symptoms)
  • sudden falls
  • suddenly sluggish gear
  • acute onset disorientation.

If symptoms of a stroke occur, medical attention is essential. Only the doctor can determine if another illness such as a

  • epileptical attack,
  • fainting;
  • Migraine or
  • a cardiological problem

the cause of the symptoms is. And only the immediate medical treatment of these symptoms can prevent severe disability or the fatal outcome of a stroke.

Different strokes

The causes of a stroke can be different. Basically, a distinction is made between an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke. In all cases, the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and the affected tissue is destroyed.

  • Inadequate blood flow to the brain (ischemia) reduces the blood supply because a blood vessel leading to the brain suddenly becomes blocked. This is the most common cause of a stroke. Such a vascular occlusion can be caused by a thrombosis, ie a blood clot. The blood clot usually forms in vessels that have already been damaged by calcification and fatty deposits.
  • An embolism can also cause a reduced blood flow. In the process, blood clots that have formed elsewhere in the vessels dissolve and get into the bloodstream. The starting point is blood clots that have formed in the heart or in the large vessels leading to the brain, eg the carotid artery. From such a blood clot parts can be solved, which pass through the bloodstream into the brain and close there an important blood vessel.
  • A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when the brain is flooded with blood, for example following a blood vessel's sudden rupture. Such hemorrhage (bleeding) is the cause of stroke in about 15% of cases.

Stroke with warning

In about 10% of all strokes, those affected receive an "advance warning": a transient ischemic circulatory disorder of the brain occurs, a so-called transient ischemic attack (TIA) .The symptoms are the same as in a stroke, but they quickly go back, Because of the rapid reopening of the vessel, this temporary circulatory disorder can occur hours, days, or weeks before the actual stroke, and a transient ischemic attack is a warning signal that should not be ignored - people who have suffered a temporary circulatory disorder of the brain, suffer a complete stroke ten times more frequently than people of the same age and sex without TIA.

Know risk factors

Some risk factors, such as increasing age or genetic predisposition, can not be influenced. The majority of the other risk factors, however, already. This includes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoke
  • Dyslipidemia
  • overweight
  • lack of exercise
  • diabetes
  • Arrhythmia

The regular blood pressure control is very easy to do, as well as the control of blood lipid levels and sugar levels. People with heart disease have a higher risk of stroke and are therefore usually examined by their doctor. Prevention is still the safest and best protection against stroke. The reduction of the risk factors can be achieved with the simple means, which meanwhile apply to almost all major common diseases:

  • Lots of fruit, vegetables, low-fat and low-sugar food
  • regular exercise and sports
  • At least 2 liters of water or unsweetened tea per day
  • smoking cessation
  • Avoidance of stress
  • loss in weight

One consequence of the Berlin study is that future education campaigns should take greater account of the increased information requirements of the risk groups in particular. In addition, according to the Berlin researchers, a wide variety of media must be used in the campaigns. Especially the education by the family doctors and the information material in the practices should be further strengthened in non-risk groups.

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