Most strokes are caused by blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or neck by a clot (thrombus). This “circulation plug” has serious consequences for the neurons of the brain, because it prevents the arrival of blood and therefore deprives them of oxygen and nutrients essential to their functioning.
The negative impact of this blockage is not long in coming: barely a few minutes after a stoppage of blood circulation, the cells of the brain begin to be irreparably damaged and quickly lose the ability to transmit a nerve signal. .
If the region of the brain that is affected participates in a basic function (breathing, for example), the consequences are obviously very serious and the person can quickly die. When the blockage affects other less essential brain regions, those affected can survive, but most of the time at the cost of a significant loss of certain physiological functions (speech, mobility). Generally, about a quarter of people affected by a stroke die within a year and a significant proportion become severely disabled after the accident.
Rise in strokes
This loss of physiological functions following a stroke represents a huge public health problem. Firstly for the survivors and their loved ones, who have to deal with the heavy burden imposed by the sequelae of the disease, but also for the public health systems, which are already facing an explosion in the financial costs associated with the various chronic diseases. . This negative impact is all the more significant as the stroke survival rate has increased considerably in recent years, which means that more and more people are suffering from post-stroke disabilities and require special health care or require long-term hospitalization in specialized homes.
A brain ages 8 years
Several studies have in fact shown that following a stroke, patients are also at very high risk of cognitive disorders (memory, spatial orientation, language and attention span, among others) and that these alterations in the functions of the brain have enormous implications for the quality and life expectancy of survivors. To better assess the extent of cognitive damage associated with strokes, a team of American scientists recently compared the intellectual abilities of a group of people aged 65 and over before and after the onset of a stroke. Using a test measuring memory and thinking speed, they first observed that participants who had suffered a stroke performed significantly worse on this test, confirming the catastrophic impact of this disease on brain function. . The interest of the study, however, is to show how significant this deterioration is: according to the test results, cognitive functions decline so drastically following a stroke that it is as if the brain had instantly aged eight years!
70% of strokes can be prevented simply by adopting better lifestyle habits
The serious damage caused by stroke, both physically and mentally, shows how important it is to reduce the risk of being affected by this disease. And it is possible, because in recent years, research has clearly shown that at least 70% of strokes could be prevented simply by adopting better lifestyle habits: eating well, avoiding smoking, controlling blood pressure , maintain normal blood sugar levels and remain physically active, even in old age.
Levine DA et al. Does stroke contribute to racial differences in cognitive decline? Stroke, 2015; 46: 1897-902.