Aging > Stroke
Strokes are a major concern for aging populations. In basic terms, a stroke occurs when the brain is not getting enough oxygen. This happens when there is a sudden interruption in the blood supply to the brain. When the blood supply is interrupted, brain cells cannot receive oxygen, and they die or become damaged. Damaged cells can remain so for several hours, but if proper and timely treatment is received, they can sometimes be saved or permanent damage can be minimized. If a stroke is left untreated, long-term neurological damage or even death may occur.
There are two types of strokes; they are ischemic and hemorrhagic. Most strokes that occur are ischemic. Ischemic strokes are a result of blood clots that block arteries that supply blood to the brain. The second and less common type, hemorrhagic strokes, are caused by excessive bleeding in or around the brain. This kind of stroke is often a result of high blood pressure, but they can also be caused by cerebral aneurysms or head injuries. These kinds of strokes pose more immediate danger than ischemic strokes.
Symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness, often on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking or walking, and vision trouble in one or both eyes. However, some strokes are not accompanied by the telltale symptoms. Known as “silent strokes,” these are fairly common in the elderly. Silent strokes occur when a person has no symptoms of a stroke, but when one occurs nonetheless. These often cause brain damage which affect cognitive abilities. Elderly people who experience silent strokes are at high risk for developing dementia, and they often neglect to receive the care and rehabilitation they need.
Strokes can be caused by a number of different factors, but a common cause is when built-up plaque in the arteries breaks off and forms a clot in the brain. This is most common in people with low levels of HDL cholesterol in their systems and who have atherosclerosis (hardened arteries). People who smoke, have diabetes or have high blood pressure are at a much greater risk for having strokes. They are not a normal part of the again process. Controlling high blood pressure, increasing exercise, maintaining ideal weight, quitting smoking and limiting use of alcohol can all reduce one’s risk. A healthy diet can decrease risk of heart disease and thus decrease chances of suffering a stroke. A daily does of aspirin is also recommended to help prevent formation of blood clots in at risk patients.
Strokes are more common in men than women, but women are more likely to die from a stroke. Risk of stroke increases with age, but young people who use cocaine, have high blood pressure or have received brain injuries are also at risk. People who survive strokes typically must go through rehabilitation to deal with the effects of the event. If treated soon enough, stroke victims may be able to minimize damage, sometimes regaining movement or speech impairments.