Q & A: Silent stroke

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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.

Dr. Muhammad Alvi

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.

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