The brain needs constant blood supply for its proper operation. A stroke occurs as a result of a sudden interruption in the supply of blood and oxygen to some of the brain tissue and nerve cells, which leads to tissue destruction and brain function damage. From the moment nerve cells are injured, a “chain reaction” begins causing the death of these cells and even cells surrounding the injured area.
The function of brain cells is to perceive, process and interpret input and control body motions. When brain tissue is damaged, the function of the body part controled by these cells is damaged. This damage can lead to such conditions as difficulty speaking, impaired walking, weakness in one side of the body, impaired vision or memory loss. Without fast treatment, the damage caused by the stroke can become permanent and irreversible and even end in the patient’s death.
Sometimes the stroke can be a transient alchemic attack that only lasts a few minutes. Its symptoms are identical to those of a stroke, but are reversible, and the neurological phenomena disappear after a short period. About 10% to 15% of those suffering such attack are expected to experience a full-blown stroke within 90 days. The first days after the transient attack are the most dangerous, and therefore the patient should go to a hospital as soon as possible for testing and treatment.
Stroke is the third most frequent cause of death in the Western world (after heart disease and cancer), and is responsible for about 20% of all deaths in old age. Strokes are the most common reason for neurological damage leading to permanent handicap. In Israel, 13,000 to 15,000 people suffer a stroke every year. The frequency is equal for both genders, but women tend to experience worse damage. Stroke is gradually becoming the hazard of the 21st century, with the age of victims getting younger and younger.
Fighting the stroke is possible and essential – reducing its damage, improving the patients’ quality of life, assisting family members who are burdened with the heavy, complicated load of caring for the sufferer, and preventing the next stroke.