What puts you at risk of stroke: Here is everything you need to know

What was a disease impacting the lungs, today, there is substantial evidence now to prove that people who have had a stroke or a heart condition are at an added risk of contracting coronavirus.

The pandemic times are writing a different story in the healthcare chapter. The virus is still a puzzle for the medical fraternity, who are unfolding its impact on the human body, gradually. For instance, what was a disease impacting the lungs, today, there is substantial evidence now to prove that people who have had a stroke or a heart condition are at an added risk of contracting coronavirus. Clearly, the virus has evaded all our health warning signs, which is why it is imperative to understand how it can impact our hearts and minds. In a country where stroke is among the leading causes of death and disability, knowledge on the subject is power. Experts highlight the cause of stroke, symptoms to watch out for, and technologies that can help reduce the risk.

“When the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, it impacts the blood vessels in the brain, causing a part of the brain to die, it is called a stroke. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. There are two kinds of strokes- one is ischemic where a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain, and the other is haemorrhagic where a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain. It’s important to watch out for the symptoms like slurring speech, loss of balance, dizziness, severe headaches because of an unknown cause, or numbness in the arms, face or leg, especially on one side of your body.”

In some cases, there are certain conditions like atrial fibrillation that put you more risk of an ischemic stroke. In fact, according to some studies, a condition like atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke in a patient by four to five times. “What happens during AF is that the upper heart chambers do not beat as they should. The blood is not pumped out of the heart properly, causing the blood cells to form lumps or clots in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). When this clot escapes, it can travel to any part of your body, restricting the blood supply to the brain, causing a stroke. That said, seeking proper treatment can help reduce your risk of stroke. For instance, we have left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) devices that reduce the risk of stroke and bleeding that comes with long-term use of oral medication. These devices can either be implemented slightly distal to the LAA opening or implanted permanently, depending on the patient’s condition.”

For the longest time, scientists around the world struggled to understand the cause of stroke, and solutions to fight it. However, over the years, technology has helped us bridge this gap. While you may not be able to fight every symptom that causes a stroke and address it in the initial stages, conditions like AF can be managed at the onset.

“There are many blood thinners that work in the case of AF. However, in some patients when AF is not caused by a problem in their heart valve, we might suggest seeking an alternative to blood thinners to reduce the risk. This is where implants come into play. Some of these implants are the size of a quarter and are not even visible outside the body. The implants are reducing the dependence on medicines for most patients.”

In addition to the treatments available to reduce risk, experts suggest lifestyle changes that benefit. From keeping your blood pressure in check to controlling those sugar levels, living an active lifestyle and ensuring your cholesterol levels are in check, simple changes go a long way in keeping the heart healthy. The most important aspect of care is acting FAST— check if the Face is drooping on one side, if one Arm is unable to rise or drifting downward, if the Speech is blurred, it is important to act Timely and seek immediate help. As we fight the pandemic together, let us ensure that we do not ignore health threats like stroke which are already a challenging disease burden to counter. Prevention is always better than cure!

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STROKE Dr. Viveka Kumar


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