April is the month dedicated to the prevention of stroke, a disease that in Italy is the third cause of death after cardiovascular disease and neoplasms, and the first cause of disability.

Cerebral stroke is due to a sudden closure or rupture of a cerebral vessel, resulting in damage to brain cells, caused by lack of oxygen and nutrients brought by the blood (ischemia) or by compression carried out by the spillage of blood from the vessel (cerebral bleeding).

Prevention is possible by intervening on those risk factors that can be modified through a healthy lifestyle. It is also important, in order to limit the damage, to recognize the signs of its occurrence and to seek help in a timely manner.

We talk about this issue with Dr. Simona Marcheselli, Head of Emergency Neurology and Stroke Unit in Humanitas.


Advice on prevention

  • Do not smoke.
  • Practice moderate physical activity daily, such as a half hour of fast walking per day.
  • Keep body weight under control: a weight in the standard has a positive impact on blood pressure, diabetes and fat in the blood.
  • Limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
  • Ensure a healthy and balanced diet, reducing fats and condiments of animal origin and favoring the consumption of fish (source of polyunsaturated fats), fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (sources of vitamins and antioxidants).
  • Do not exceed the consumption of salt, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure.
  • Check blood pressure to identify any conditions of hypertension, an important cardiovascular risk factor.
  • Check your blood sugar level to detect diabetes early on.
  • In case of atrial fibrillation, perform periodic cardiac assessments and follow your doctor’s instructions. Generally, anticoagulant medication is indicated for patients over 65 years of age and those who have already had a cerebral ischemic stroke. In other cases it is useful to take Aspirin.


Signs that should not to be underestimated

The early detection of signs of stroke is essential in order to prepare for treatment as soon as possible. The administration of therapy within 4.5 hours of the onset of symptoms, in fact, helps to contain the damage and reduce any disability.

Symptoms may vary from person to person; even depending on the area of the brain involved, and may not be immediately recognizable. However, be aware of the following signs and call for help from rescue personnel if they are present:

  • Impossible or difficult to move one arm, leg or both limbs on the same side of the body.
  • Retorted mouth.
  • Feeling of “no sensation” or “lack of sensation” in an arm, leg or both limbs on the same side of the body.
  • Difficulty visualizing part of an object well.
  • Lack of coordination in movements.
  • Inability to maintain balance.
  • Problems in language: both in the articulation of words, in understanding what others have said or in finding the correct words.
  • Violent headache, different from the usual one.


These symptoms can appear for a few minutes and then resolve spontaneously, which is why they are often underestimated. These cases are referred to as transient ischemic attacks (TIA), a phenomenon that is often a real alarm bell for stroke and therefore deserves specialist attention.