A stroke is caused by an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain. The term ‘stroke’ comes from the fact that it usually happens without any warning, ‘striking’ the person from out of the blue. Stroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, call 999. Worldwide, every year 2 in every 1,000 people have a stroke. Five out of six strokes happen in people over the age of 60. Most strokes are caused by blockages (usually blood clots) disrupting the brain’s blood supply. These are called ischaemic strokes. Clots can form in these arteries themselves or form in a blood vessel elsewhere in the body and travel to the brain. Some strokes are caused by bleeds. These are called haemorrhagic strokes. The most common cause is high blood pressure which damages and weakens the arteries making them more likely to tear. Some people have haemorrhagic strokes because they have aneurysms (balloon-like swellings in the arteries) which burst. Some people have a temporary blockage in the blood supply to their brain which clears of its own accord, quickly and before any lasting damage to the brain is done. This is called a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). A TIA may cause brief loss of vision, loss of speech or weakness of one side of the body. You will usually recover within a few minutes and you won’t have any obvious disability. A TIA is very serious as it is a warning, that unless you take action, you may suffer more TIAs or even a full blown stroke. Each person is affected differently by stroke and individual symptoms depend on which parts of the brain are affected and for what specific functions these parts of the brain are responsible. Even minor injury to certain areas can be serious, while other areas can be quite badly injured with little visible effect. The main symptoms of stroke are physical problems:
* Hemiplegia means ‘half paralysis’. The paralysis, on one side of the body, can be either partial or complete depending on...
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