A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is disturbed, causing brain cells to die. When an artery to the brain is clogged because of a blood clot, the affected part of the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen and ceases to function. Cholesterol plaque buildup in arteries can cause blood clots. Risk factors for narrow blood vessels caused by plaque are the same for brain blood vessels as they are heart attack risk, and include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking.
While some strokes can be massive and cause serious impairment many older people suffer silent strokes. Everyday Health says that silent strokes in the elderly may not display any visible signs that a stroke has occurred. New studies indicate that some of the memory loss exhibited by older people may have been caused by a silent stroke. When stroke occurs in people less than 50 years old sometimes other factors cause the problem. Drugs like cocaine or amphetamines can increase the risk of stroke, and some people do have a genetic predisposition to stroke.
According to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke there are major symptoms associated with stroke. Abrupt numbness of the face, arm, or leg especially on one side of the body may indicate you have had a stroke. Difficulty talking or sudden confusion along with weakness in face muscles may indicate stroke. If you have difficulty seeing this is one of the warning signs for stroke. Loss of balance, becoming dizzy, difficulty walking, or a sudden and acute headache indicate possible stroke as well.
If you suspect someone is having a stroke you should make sure they lie down. However, if the victim is unresponsive, or displays nausea they should be placed in the rescue position, which means to lay the patient on their side. This prevents the patient from choking on his own vomit. There are three commands known as the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale. First, ask the patient to smile. The response should be a symmetrical smile under normal circumstances. Ask the patient to raise both arms to look for weakness. Then, ask the patient to speak a simple sentence.
Once stroke has been diagnosed there is only a small window of opportunity to use clot busting drugs to dissolve the clot which caused the stroke. The American Heart Association says medical providers have about 4 ½ hours from when the patient was last in a normal state to break up the clot. Sometimes the stroke symptoms can be reversed by dissolving the clot, however other times excessive bleeding occurs and the stroke worsens. If the damage is profound physical and occupational therapists will help the victim lead a normal as possible life.