When hypertension is left untreated, it can lead to a series of negative health consequences — including permanent brain damage. As the vessels that transport blood to the brain become narrow and filled with plaque, the risk of stroke greatly increases.
Hypertension and stroke
When the blood vessels are weakened they may leak, rupture, or narrow, thus exposing people to the risk of a stroke. When the walls of the arteries become weakened, certain ruptures may cause the apparition of plaques. These plaques may also rupture, forming blood clots around them, and preventing blood from circulating inside the arteries at a normal pace.
There is also a medical condition called a transient ischemic attack. This is considered to be a mini or a pre-stoke, and when it happens, doctors will always take into account the possibility that the person might be exposed to a full-blown stroke.
A transient ischemic attack is sometimes referred to as a “warning stroke” and its symptoms are very similar to those of a regular stroke. They usually occur when there is a blood clot inside the arteries that supply blood to the brain. A transient ischemic attack’s clot will only block the vessels for a short while.
An in-depth look at stroke
In each of these two cases, the blood supply to your brain is interrupted, as well as the oxygen needed for adequate brain function. Since your brain is responsible for sending information to the rest of your body, there’s more to a stroke than just brain damage.
When the brain no longer functions as required, you can experience difficulties in thinking, communication, moving, and other functions that are needed to lead a normal life. A severe stroke can also result in paralysis or death.
The majority of people that suffer from hypertension experience ischemic strokes, as elevated blood pressure is notorious for its ability to narrow or clog blood arteries.
Hemorrhagic strokes occur in a lower percentage of hypertension patients. Hemorrhagic strokes are also known as cerebral hemorrhages, and are a consequence of blood vessel ruptures occurring in the vicinity of the brain. When this happens, patients can have:
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage, which occurs on the surface of the brain.
- Intracerebral hemorrhage, normally found inside the brain.
Signs of a stroke
Knowing how to identify the signs of a stroke might save your life, but can also save the life of a person close to you. Because hypertension is known as “the silent killer” and may not always show symptoms, strokes can appear suddenly.
When the signs of a stroke make their presence, it’s important to call your local emergency number at once, as a fast response time may save someone’s life. The most common signs of a stroke are as follows:
- Face numbness/weakness, but also of one of the limbs. It may occur on a single side of the body.
- Difficulty in communicating with others, failure to express intention, problems in understanding others.
- Blurry or impaired vision.
- Headaches without any apparent cause.
- Impaired movement, difficulty in walking or maintaining balance, lack of coordination.
Keep in mind that all off these symptoms will occur suddenly, and some people can experience one or all of them.
To treat a stroke, it’s important to determine what type of stroke it is. In the case of an ischemic stroke, the main goal for your doctor is to restore blood flow to your brain. There is an emergency medication treatment that must start within four and a half hours from the first signs of stroke. This treatment could include a tissue plasminogen activator injection, which is given through the vein. This treatment will identify the blood clot that caused the stroke, and work to dissolve it.
Endovascular procedures are another solution, and they involve treating an ischemic stroke through procedures applied directly on the blocked vessel. Doctors may give medication that are delivered straight to the brain, through a catheter inserted in the groin.
A stent retriever is another invasive procedure that could treat an ischemic stroke, and it’s often a solution for patients that have blood clots which are too big to be treated with tissue plasminogen activator.
In the case of a hemorrhagic stroke, doctors will focus on stopping the bleeding and restoring normal pressure inside the brain. Aside from the drugs that doctors may choose to treat the patient with in such a case, one can also be required to undergo surgery for repairing the blood vessel:
- Surgical clipping involves adding a tiny clamp that stops the blood flow supply to the aneurysm.
- Endovascular embolization implies inserting detachable coils inside the aneurysm through the use of a catheter, guided by x-ray imaging. The coils will also prevent the aneurysm from receiving blood.
- If the arteriovenous malformation is located in an accessible part of the brain, doctors may choose to remove it in order to prevent any potential hemorrhagic strokes. However, this isn’t possible if the removal would imply large brain function reduction, or if the arteriovenous malformation is located deep inside the brain.
If you’ve had a stroke, your doctor will try to make sure that you recover as much of your initial functions as possible. Sometimes, the damage is irreversible, so treating blood pressure from the get go can avoid such a major negative impact on your life.