Stroke is a disorder of the blood circulation in the brain: when an area of the brain occurs, it is not sprayed and consequently suffers damage. It is caused by the sudden closure or rupture of a cerebral vessel and the consequent damage to the cerebral cells due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood (ischemia) or to the compression due to the blood coming out of the vessel (cerebral hemorrhage).

In Italy it is the third cause of death, after cardiovascular diseases and neoplasms, but the first absolute cause of disability: there are about 185,000 people affected by strokes every year; of these 150,000 are the new cases, while 35,000 are cases that repeat after the first episode.

75% of stroke cases affect people over 65 years of age, but it is a disease that also affects the younger population. Professor Simona Marcheselli, head of the Emergency Neurology Unit and Stroke Unit at Humanitas, talked about it in an interview.

Ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke: the differences

Ischemia or hemorrhagic stroke represent the two types of stroke, explained Dr. Marcheselli: “we speak of ischemic stroke when a thrombus – or a blood clot – blocks an artery of the brain preventing the regular flow of blood; hemorrhagic stroke, however, is caused by the rupture of an artery of the brain. In this case, the blood escapes and causes a hematoma, damaging or killing the surrounding neurons.

Why strokes also affect young people

High blood pressure – one of the causes of cerebral hemorrhage – can also affect young people and not only those over 65. Ischemic stroke, on the other hand, affects older people as mentioned above, and depends on heart rhythm disorders, such as atrial fibrillation, or atherosclerosis.

The symptoms

“The first symptom perceived is fatigue in the movement of the limbs”; often those who have a stroke in progress complain of difficulty in seeing because “part of the field of vision disappears”: “you do not remember the words and you struggle to speak. In the case of cerebral hemorrhage there is often a headache, but also a lack of strength, a tingle and a lack of sensitivity in the arms and legs. When these symptoms occur, it is essential to consult the doctor immediately: “Ischemic stroke – said the teacher – must be treated within 4 – 5 hours, otherwise the drugs used to reopen the occluded vessels are likely to be not only useless but harmful.