A stroke doesn’t always announce its arrival with intense pain or a loss of mind-body coordination. You can have a stroke (a silent stroke) without experiencing any of its typical symptoms. With stroke being one of the topmost causes of death in America, you need to take precautions to avoid it. And to do so, you need to understand the disease.
What is a silent stroke?
A stroke is basically a brain attack. It occurs when the oxygen supplied to a particular part of your brain is suddenly cut-off. When this happens, the cells of your brain start dying due to lack of oxygen. This results in a stroke, where certain types of brain activity (such as muscle control or memory) are hindered.
Here are some of the typical symptoms of a stroke:
- Facial paralysis, that causes numbness or drooping of one-half of the face
- Weakness and numbness in the arm, causing a loss of motor skills
- Slurred speech and delirium
- Blurred vision
- Inability to coordinate the mind and body
- Intense headaches or a migraine
- Difficulty swallowing or dysphagia
Silent strokes, meanwhile, don’t significantly affect any part of the brain, explaining why they don’t cause any noticeable symptoms. However, having multiple silent strokes over time could cause cognitive impairment.
Why you should care about stroke
About 800,000 people each year fall prey to strokes, and every 4 minutes, somebody is affected by a stroke. This number, according to studies, could be significantly understated, as cases of silent strokes often go unnoticed and undiagnosed. It is estimated that nearly 10 percent of individuals suffering from an acute stroke for the first time don’t realize it, as it often appears as a silent stroke.
Who is at risk?
Anybody over the age of 65 can suffer a sudden stroke (silent or otherwise), though strokes can also affect youngsters. Other risk factors include family history, ethnicity, gender, and medical history. Those of South Asian, African, or Caribbean ethnicities are also at a higher risk of stroke than people from other backgrounds. And gender is also a factor – males are at a higher risk of stroke and women are more likely to die from it. Additionally, if you have a close relative who has suffered a stroke, you could be at risk.
You can also be affected by a stroke if you have any of these conditions:
- High blood pressure or hypertension
- High cholesterol levels
- Unhealthy lifestyle (excessive drinking and smoking)
- Sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)
- Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
Detecting a silent stroke
Since the number of silent strokes occurring globally is alarmingly high, it’s important to detect it. Silent stroke does not have a lot of recognizable symptoms, and for most people, the only way to detect it is by getting a brain scan done. And although there are no immediate symptoms of a silent stroke, there are subtle signs that accompany it.
Signs of a silent stroke
Most individuals who suffered a stroke in the past have faced cognitive impairment. In a study, out of the 650 participants that were examined, more than 170 had dead tissues (or infarcts) in their brain that were possibly caused by a silent stroke. Individuals with brain infarcts reported that they often suffered from memory loss and impaired mental processes, although none of them had a history of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or any other age-related cognitive disorder.
How to prevent a silent stroke
The good news is that strokes are usually avoidable. Even if you have the medical conditions that increase the risk, you can follow these tips to prevent silent strokes.
- Control your blood pressure levels. If you have high blood pressure, don’t forget to take your medicine regularly.
- Regulate your consumption of foods with a high salt content, such as meat, seafood, and dairy. Limit your daily salt intake to less than 1 tablespoon.
- Quit smoking and drinking.
- Get enough exercise and maintain a healthy body mass index.
- Don’t succumb to a sedentary lifestyle. If you have a desk job that demands long hours, make sure to take enough breaks and move around.
- Practice yoga regularly.
While we may not be able to easily detect a silent stroke, we can take steps to prevent it. If you are over the age of 65 or at a high risk of stroke, go for regular checkups. If you have already suffered a silent stroke, don’t lose hope – you can always prevent it from occurring again.