A consultant neurologist, Dr. Seyi Roberts, discusses stroke and its preventions with SIMON UTEBOR
What is stroke?
A stroke is usually linked to the brain – from what we call a blood vessel abnormality. One of the blood vessels to the brain can either burst or get blocked, which now leads to loss of blood supply and oxygen to a part of the brain. It is an interruption to the blood supply to a particular part of the brain, because the blood vessel supplying that part of the brain has been compromised.
How is the brain affected?
There are usually two ways in which the compromise can occur. It is either the blood is blocked by a clot or the blood vessel bursts and ruptures, and blood escapes into the brain. Then one is said to have a stroke. If one has a stroke, that part of the brain that is affected usually leads to a loss of function on corresponding parts of the body, leading to paralysis, either in the arm or leg or even affecting one side of the face. It may also affect speech and language so that the patient may not be able to talk or even understand spoken language.
What causes stroke?
The major cause of stroke is hypertension; that is when one’s blood pressure is too high and untreated. After hypertension, the next major cause of stroke is diabetes and there are other less common causes. For instance, if one has too much fat in one’s blood (cholesterol), it could be a risk factor. Other causes include smoking. Smoking is a risk factor to stroke. People who have heart disease are also likely to have stroke. Also, people who have heart beating abnormality (the heart not beating at the normal rate) are also a risk factor to stroke.
Who are prone to stroke?
Those more prone to stroke are people in the middle age, usually people above 50 are more likely to have stroke than the younger ones.
How is a person affected by stroke?
The commonest sign of stroke is a loss of function on a particular part of the body in such a way that the person may not be able to walk – he is paralysed from one side. You can see many people walking around, dragging one leg, very often they are people who are suffering from stroke.
Are there different types of stroke?
There are different types of stroke. As I said, there are two major types – the one caused by blockade of the blood vessel and the one caused by rupture; that is burst of the blood vessel. The one caused by rupture causes hemorrhagic stroke (that is hemorrhagic), and the one caused by blockade is called ischemic stroke.
It is believed that some drugs can cause a stroke. Is the assumption correct?
Yes. Illicit drugs can cause stroke. Cocaine is number one drug that can lead to stroke; and of course, tobacco (smoking) is a risk factor for stroke.
What are the early warning signs of stroke?
Well, there are really no warning signs. Once you have a stroke, it is already happening; it is a catastrophe. It is something one prevents from happening. As being said, it is the risk factors – hypertension, diabetes, etc, that people have to deal with. They are the things you need to know whether you are suffering from any of those conditions and then treat those conditions in order to prevent stroke.
How can stroke be prevented?
You can prevent stroke by preventing the risk factors. You need to know whether you are hypertensive, diabetic or suffering from heart disease or other ailments that can cause a person to have stroke. These are the things that one’s doctor has to determine; unfortunately, as hypertension does not have any symptoms, unless you go and see a doctor.
What is the cure for stroke?
There is no cure. A stroke is an injury causing damage to the brain and unfortunately, the brain does not repair itself. So, very often, if one suffers a stroke, the chances are that one will be left with some degrees of loss of functions. It is not something one can cure.
How would you describe the claims of some persons that they could cure stroke?
No, anybody who makes such a claim is not a doctor, maybe he is a juju person or a pastor. All those persons are talking nonsense. Once one suffers a stroke, and one has a deficit, very often that deficit will manifest. There is room for some recovery. People still walk again but usually one is left with some permanent deficit unless the stroke was not significant.
They cannot cure stroke, because it is a permanent damage to the brain and the brain does not repair itself. So, any function one loses, one loses it permanently. That is why the best treatment for a stroke is to prevent it. Once it has occurred, it is all over. You don’t even want to get it.
There is a myth that sex can cause stroke. What is your take on this?
No, it cannot. It is just a myth.
It is also said that regular sex prevent stroke…
No, it does not prevent it and it also doesn’t cause it.
How would you react to the belief that stroke cannot be prevented?
Stroke is preventable because one knows what causes it and once one can prevent the causes, one is not likely to have a stroke. It is not something that happens out of bad luck; it can be prevented.
Is stroke hereditary?
It is not hereditary. But the thing is that if one has a family history of stroke; in other words, if one’s mother or father had a stroke, there is an increased tendency and increased risk for one to have a stroke. This is because obviously, the underlining risks that led to the stroke, one may have inherited it, which is hypertension, diabetes – diseases that are also hereditary to a large extent.
Does smoking increase one’s chances of having stroke?
Yes, it is one of the risk factors for stroke. So, anybody, who smokes is taking a risk.
It is believed that stroke recovery only occurs in the first few months after a stroke. How true is that?
Stroke recovery occurs, but usually, it depends on the original and initial severity of the stroke. The person may recover some of the functions, and most of these recoveries occur within three to six months. After that, there is very little recovery that follows, even though some recoveries may still continue but very little. If after three to six months, one has not recovered, one is not likely to recover anything anymore.
Between men and women, who are more prone to stroke?
It tends to be commoner in men than in women. This is because men tend to develop hypertension more than women.