Stroke: what are the symptoms to look out for?

Each day sixty people in Belgium suffer a stroke in the form of a thrombosis or brain haemorrhage.  It’s the greatest cause of invalidity among adults and the second biggest killer in Belgium.

It’s likely to affect one in four Belgians during their lifetime.  Being alert to the symptoms and providing a quick response are crucial and reason enough for the Cardiological League to draw attention to this phenomenon during the ongoing Week of the Heart.

In the event of a stroke part of the brain is starved of oxygen.  “It’s a cardiovascular affliction, not a brain affliction” says Prof Dendale of the Hasselt Jessa Hospital. “Once a blood vessel in the brain is blocked, brain tissue starts to die.  The quicker we are on the case to remove a clot, the less the damage.”

In 80% of cases an artery is blocked.  This is a thrombosis.  In twenty percent of cases there is a haemorrhage of blood in the brain that will damage that part of the brain, but by increasing pressure may also cause problems elsewhere in the brain. Symptoms include temporary or permanent paralysis, loss of speech and sight.

In the event of a stroke one or more limbs may not function properly.  Talking may become difficult.  A corner of the mouth or side of the face my turn down.  You may even see a blotch.  Prof Dendale says it’s crucial to respond immediately. “If we are swiftly on the case, we can often repair a lot of the damage.  In the event of serious paralysis you will be hospitalised and the blood clot removed. Symptoms may also announce an oncoming stroke.  The same symptoms appear but disappear once again.  In the event of temporary symptoms, it crucial to get checked out.  Use of blood thinners, can prevent strokes”.

Strokes are often lifestyle illnesses caused by the blockage of a blood vessel in the brain: smoking, lack of movement, diabetes and high blood pressure may all be contributory factors.

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