Did you know that strokes are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States? In fact, every year, over 800,000 Americans succumb to strokes, which can lead to serious long-term disabilities, in addition to death. It's important to learn about and understand the types of strokes in order to make life-style modifications to reduce the risk of strokes in your aging loved-one's life.
Although anyone could potentially be at risk of having a stroke, seniors and adults over 65 years old are at a much higher risk and make up a higher percentage of stroke victims (about 66%). There are three types of strokes, and they fall into the following categories: Hemorrhagic strokes (bleeds), Ischemic strokes (clots), and TIA's (trans ischemic attacks).
Hemorrhagic strokes, also known as brain bleeds, account for 13% of all strokes in seniors. This type of stroke is usually due to one of two causes: uncontrolled high blood pressure or an aneurysm (weakening of blood vessel walls). In both scenarios, the blood vessels in your brain rupture, which result in active bleeding in the brain. And once the brain comes in direct contact with blood, the brain cells start to quickly die, which can cause major deficits and or death depending on the location and duration of the bleed.
The next type of stroke, ischemic strokes, are the most common. They make up the remaining 87% of all cases. Ischemic strokes occur when a clot forms in a blood vessel, which prevents oxygen and other essential nutrients from reaching vital cells in the brain. These brain cells essentially suffocate and die, which can also lead to serious deficits such as impaired memory, speech loss, paralysis and of course death.
And finally, the last type of stroke is known as a TIA or Trans Ischemic Stroke. Although a trans ischemic stroke is also caused by a clot forming in the brain's blood vessels, TIA's usually resolve within 5 minutes as a result of the clot quickly dissolving, thus restoring blood supply to the brain. The other important factor about TIA's is they never cause long-term impairments and symptoms quickly resolve without medical interventions.
Now that you understand the three types of strokes, stay tuned for our next installment where we explore the signs and symptoms and explain what emergency actions you need to take if you suspect the senior in your life is having a stroke.
Carlin Longley is a Registered Nurse and entrepreneur who's passionate about helping others.