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Mar 19, 2009

Healthy Living looks at detection and prevention of strokes

Story PicturePrevention is always better than cure, it applies to many situations and particularly so to your health. And while age is a factor, no one is really exempted from strokes. Healthy Living this week looks at the early symptoms and how to prevent permanent damage.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Like all the rest of our body, the brain requires oxygen to be able to function properly. Oxygen is carried in the blood. When a stroke occurs there is a blocked or ruptured blood vessel which stops the flow of oxygen-rich blood to portions of the brain. Without sufficient oxygen there is a sudden impairment of brain function which if not addressed immediately, may be irreparable.

Dr. Joel Cervantes, reports that of all his neurological consults, fifty percent are relate to strokes. He stresses the need to recognize early symptoms of strokes in order to prevent permanent damage. He starts with explaining the two major types of strokes.

Dr. Joel Cervantes, Neurosurgeon
“One type that the brain is that is starved of oxygen; Ischemic it is called and this basically has to do with a blockage of the pipes, the blood vessels, the little pipes that take the blood to the brain tissue. Oxygen doesn’t pass to that area of the brain tissue and the function that part of the brain is charge of would probably die or be severely damaged. The second major type which is not as frequent is only twenty percent is the hemorrhagic type. That means basically that the pipes or the blood vessels are going to be a rupture. So the blood vessel or the pipe it breaks and blood will be thrown within the confines of the brain as such. It could be the brain tissue or it could be the water canals we have in the brain tissues itself.”

Once the blockage or rupture occurs, within minutes there is damage to the brain. This is why it is important to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“One of the most common factors that you will find, manifestations rather is a lack of muscle strength; the persons feels that their losing the strength that there is not a capability to do certain movements with the hands, with the arms with the legs, that they’d been able to do before. A second area is sensory problem. Sensory meaning maybe numbness or abnormal sensation that starts to appear perhaps on one side of the body maybe numbness in the arms, in the legs in the face that they didn’t have this before or they wake up and they have these symptoms as such. So apart from this we also have sometimes people manifest with speech problems , they can’t speak or they can’t understand when you speak to them or they do it with difficulty or when they try to speak, the words that they emit sounds like a person who might be intoxicated with alcohol for example.”

Other symptoms may include trouble seeing in one or both eyes experiencing double vision, or seeing things dimmed or blurry. Feelings of confusion or having trouble understanding, experiencing difficulty in walking, feeling unsteady, dizzy, or clumsy and even a severe headache

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“When we speak about a person having a stroke as such. It is very important the time factor. The time factor is important. The first three to six hours are very vital. It is very important that the person be taken to a hospital not to a doctor’s office because it is better for you to be told that nothing severe is happening instead than after the fact you lament about it. Within the first three hours, the majority of stroke with proper treatment can either be reversed or they can be stopped so that they don’t progress more. After that window of about six hours, most times whatever medical treatment we can offer both in Belize and abroad might not have much of a positive effect on the patient and then we start seeing all the consequences of the stroke as such.”

What is important to note is that sometimes these symptoms may occur and not progress further. But they may be warning that a stroke may be looming and warrants a check in with your doctor.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“Some people would have a warning called a transient ischemic attack and that is a warning just before stroke sometimes. Some people could have one event and afterwards have a stroke; some people could have one event and never afterwards have a stroke developing. Some people would have two or three episodes and eventually have a stroke developing. But if you have these symptoms that seem to have appeared and then disappeared and you did not consult you’re making a mistake.”

Equally important to knowing the symptoms is understanding whether or not you may be at risk for strokes. While age is one factor, there are other habits that may put you at risk.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“Usually we would see a stroke appearing more frequently as we advance in age. A stroke is not usually seen in younger individuals. In other words, the risk increases with age, but this does not mean that in young individuals, including children we cannot find strokes. Conditions that are very common in all societies and in the Belizean society is not an exception… high Blood pressure, especially if you’re not well disciplined and high blood pressure is not controlled. Diabetes, another very major problem in Belize, problems with cholesterol there could be some Family genetics in certain cases too, cigarette smoking, drug abuse especially like cocaine which I know is very common here in Belize that’s for another type of stroke.”

Maintaining proper health is one way in which to reduce the likelihood of getting a stroke. Persons who are overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle and heart disease are additional risk factors. But the underlying message when it comes to stroke prevention is do not wait.

Dr. Joel Cervantes
“First and foremost, a general check up at least once a year if you’re healthy; if you have any health issue, whenever your doctor ask you to go and If not every six months at least if you high risk factors, heart disease, high blood pressure diabetes. If you’ve have any of these symptoms that seems to have warned that you can have stroke please be insistent. It’s better to be over cautious than not to take care of the situation.”


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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