You would have never dreamt it is possible, but there is a growing body of evidence that young people — even infants and teenagers — are increasingly becoming susceptible to the incidence of strokes. Though young people may not suffer strokes for the same reasons that older people do; it is vital to be alert to the lurking perils. A stroke is also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Before discussing what causes strokes, let us understand what a stroke is, and how it is different from a heart attack.
In a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1990 named the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), stroke is defined as “rapidly developing clinical signs of focal (or global) disturbance of cerebral function, with symptoms lasting 24 hours or longer or leading to death, with no apparent cause other than of vascular origin ”. Put into simple words, a stroke occurs when there is insufficient flow of oxygen rich blood to the brain due to either a ruptured blood vessel, or a blockage.
Therefore, it means that when any patient suffers a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which lasts less than 24 hours, she/he has not suffered a stroke. Further, patients suffering from poisoning, tumors, subdural hemorrhage, or trauma might display symptoms of stroke, but do not confuse them with strokes.
Typically, strokes are of three kinds. Ischemic stroke (infarction) which is caused by atherosclerotic obstruction or blockage of large cervical and cerebral arteries; intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke which is usually caused by arteriolar hypertensive disease, or a ruptured blood vessel; and subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by the rupture of aneurysms at the bifurcations of large arteries in the brain.
The terms stroke and heart attack should not be confused, or used interchangeably even though both are caused by insufficient supply of blood, and normally arise from a distress in the blood vessels, especially in the arteries. A stroke affects the brain directly causing some brain cells to die. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is usually caused by the worsening of a chronic arterial blockage or by the hardening of the arteries, also known as coronary artery disease (CAD), which deprive the heart of necessary nutrients and oxygen. However, the causes and risk factors, some symptoms, and long term effects such as disability can be similar in both cases. What is alarming is that both are increasingly occurring in people below 45 years of age.
The usual suspects lie at the root of most people suffering from strokes. Genetic coding, life style issues, diet, gender, diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, poor blood circulation; stress, the negative effects of climate change and technological advances, even race might cause a person to get a stroke. The simpler tasks are made by science, the less time people seem to have left for themselves, which can make most people leading normal lives feel overwhelmed. Your stroke risks are enhanced if you have a heart rhythm abnormality known as atrial fibrillation (AK), which can cause pooling of blood in the heart leading to clot formation, which travels to the brain.
Few health guides will warn you about a congenital cardiac defect which can potentially cause a stroke. A patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a flap valve between the left and right atrium which has not fused close after birth. This “hole in the heart” is also called atrial septual defect (ASD), and can potentially allow a clot to escape to the brain, where it can cause an intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke. Ideally, if newborns are screened for congenital cardiac defects, then such an occurrence might be averted using appropriate measures like blood pressure and cholesterol level control to prevent plaque from building up in the arteries. The other congenital health issue which raises the risk of getting a stroke is sickle cell anemia — a condition which prevents there being sufficient healthy red blood cells to carry an adequate amount of oxygen to the rest of the body.
Most healthcare providers warn of the damage to blood vessel walls which stress can inflict. Professional and personal relationship strife; the race to get it all while you can enjoy it; even carrying out routine jobs daily can all induce stress. Many people who have been involved in horrific crashes, been victims of terrorist attacks or sexual assault, especially as kids, faced communal riots, or natural disasters first hand suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When PTSD is compounded by the growing stress in everyday life of youngsters, women in particular, it creates a recipe for stroke at a young age. Unfortunately, generation Z and millennials have not been raised to be stoic in the face of catastrophes. So, they often seek to escape reality by using, or rather abusing illicit drugs, including smoking pot, hash, cocaine, and amphetamines. This is one major reason why the incidence of strokes occurring among younger people is rising.
Your family medical history will indicate the likelihood of your suffering a stroke. When it gets compounded by life style issues like smoking; alcohol abuse; lack of adequate physical activity or exercise; the food you eat, especially if you live off fast food, or other foods which are high in saturated fats, sugar, and salt; and obesity — that is when you should take charge of your own health. Ironically, some studies indicate that though a vegetarian or vegan diet is very healthy for your heart, and reduces your probability of suffering from CAD; it might increase your chances of suffering a hemorrhagic stroke.
Warning: The response time taken to rush her/him to a facility after a person suffers a stroke is critical as it determines how well, if at all, the patient will recover.
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