Stroke (CVA): 3rd cause of death in Switzerland

Stroke can have significant consequences. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Switzerland after cardiovascular disease and cancer: having the right reflex at the right time can save your life or save the life of a loved one. It is also the leading cause of disability.

A stroke, also called CVA (cerebral attack), or even a “cerebral infarction” is a sudden disruption of the blood flow to the brain, meaning the flow of blood which provides it oxygen. In 80% of the cases, the cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is the result of a blood vessel which is obstructed by a blood clot (ischemic stroke).

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or is blocked by a clot. The decrease in blood supply to the brain causes the death of brain cells, which are called neurons. The greater the number of affected neurons, the more sequel will be important.

Stroke is manifested by various symptoms, including:

 

Can you dance?

Motor (hemiplegia) and sensitive disorders: muscle weakness of one side of the body (face, arm, leg), feeling of numbness.

Can you speak with me?

Language and speech disorders: inability to find one’s words and understand even simple questions, word articulation problems, incomprehensible sentences.

Can you see me?

Vision problems: brief loss of sight in one eye, double image.

Can you walk straight?

Balance disorders and dizziness: feelings of being on a boat.

Do you have persistant headaches?

Unusual, persistent headaches which are not responding to pain treatment.

 

The warning signs evoke a cerebral attack even if they disappear in a few minutes. They are to be taken seriously and require emergency hospitalization.

Call 144 (if you live in Geneva) without delay: an ambulance will take you quickly to the hospital. The sooner treatment begins, the greater the chances of recovery.

What you can do

  1. Regularly check your blood pressure to detect a possible arterial hypertension (especially pregnant women and those taking oral contraceptives).

  2. Lose a few pounds if you are overweight.

  3. Eat less salt by replacing it with spices.

  4. Keep to a minimum your alcohol consumption.

  5. Practice physical activities on a regular basis.

  6. Incorporate moments of rest and relaxation in your life.

  7. If you are a woman, limit your daily consumption to 2 drinks (wine, beer, etc.).

  8. If you are a man, limit your daily consumption to 3 drinks (wine, beer, etc.).

What is the Appropriate Treatment?

  • Monitoring of the vital functions (oxygen, blood pressure, body temperature) and of the neurological functions (examination of the language, strength, and sensitivity) is immediately established. Treatment adapted to your case is then initiated according to the origin of the cerebral vascular accident and its causes.

  • Thrombolysis consists in injecting a powerful drug into a vein or artery in order to dissolve the clot which is clogging one of your vessels. This treatment is only possible within the first six hours after the beginning of the symptoms and depending on your condition.

  • Thrombectomy is the extraction of the blood clot clogging a vessel inside the brain. This procedure requires the introduction of a catheter in the groin area, which is then guided up to the clogged artery. The clot is then extracted using a stent (a small cylinder often used to unblock the coronary arteries) that holds it in its mesh. The stent is then removed.

  • Medicines such as platelet inhibitors which prevent the formation of blood clots (aspirin for example) or anticoagulants (heparin, Sintrom®) are also administered as the case may be.

Do not be part of the statistics! Knowing the warning signals is one of the best guarantees for optimal stroke management.