Q & A: Silent stroke

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dr. Muhammad "Mud" Alvi

A silent stroke may occur without signs or symptoms; however, it can increase your risk of having a more serious stroke in the future. WVU Medicine neurologist Muhammad “Mud” Alvi, MD, tells you more about this condition and how to prevent it.

What is a silent stroke?
When the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked suddenly, a stroke occurs, and a person may not be able to move, remember, or speak. Unlike this type of stroke, a so-called silent stroke has no noticeable symptoms, but it does create areas of permanent damage in the brain that can have a mild or severe impact on a person’s memory.

What are the risk factors?
Risk factors include atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, smoking, and unmanaged diabetes. How these risk factors end up causing a silent stroke is still not completely understood. Based on recent research, several factors may play a role in the formation of silent strokes, including poor blood flow to deeper parts of the brain and the loss of important brain cells. A combination of these health factors results in a silent stroke. Ongoing WVU Medicine research is focusing on the role of inflammation and how different medicines may help prevent silent strokes.

How is a silent stroke detected?
Usually, a silent stroke is discovered unintentionally during an evaluation for some other condition. A lesion on the brain may be visible with an MRI or CT scan. Accumulation of silent strokes can lead to a few different conditions, like depression, difficulty with balance or walking, mild memory problems, urinary incontinence, and, in some serious cases, dementia.

What can I do to prevent a silent stroke?
Because silent strokes have no visible symptoms, healthy lifestyle choices are very important. Smoking cessation is key. Healthy eating and a moderate amount of daily exercise also go a long way. WVU Medicine offers wellness classes for smoking cessation, eating well, and diabetes management to help you meet your health goals. Call 304-598-6900 to register today.