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The Science Behind Strokes

October 29th is world stroke day, raising awareness about spotting the symptoms of a stroke. In the UK there are around 100,000 strokes causing 38,000 deaths every year. This is not just limited to the elderly or adults either around 400 children have strokes every year too. But what is happening in the brain with a stroke?

There are two main types of strokes the most common one is the ischemic stroke. This accounts for 85% of cases. Here a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain resulting in sections of neurons in the brain dying off from lack of oxygen. The other main type of stroke is a haemorrhagic stroke where a damaged or weakened blood vessel ruptures in the brain. The bleeding from the ruptured vessel compresses the brain and deprives some areas of oxygen leading to neuron cell death.

Whether a stroke is survivable is down to the area of the brain it takes place in and the speed of treatment.

Every minute a stroke goes untreated more neurons are lost. This is why time is crucial. The acronym FAST is an easy way to remember how to spot a stroke. F is for face, is drooping at one side especially when they smile? A is for arms, are they able to lift both arms? Is there weakness or numbness in one arm? S is for speech. Is their speech slurred or garbled and can they understand what is being said to them? T is for time, act fast and call emergency services. Treatment of strokes includes medication to prevent and dissolve blood clots but can involve surgery to remove blood clots and treat brain swelling.

Recovering from a stroke can be long and arduous with some people taking years to recover. The brain must relearn how to do many everyday tasks from walking, talking, and swallowing. This can be incredibly frustrating so patience and support are crucial during recovery.

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