Ischemic Strokes in the Elderly
Ischemic strokes occur when an artery supplying the brain with blood becomes blocked, which naturally decreases or even completely stops blood flow, which causes a brain infarction. Approximately 80 percent of all strokes are of this type. As clotting problems become more frequent with age, it is of particular concern for those of us caring for seniors, or perhaps aging into that demographic ourselves.
Blood clots are the most common cause of artery blockages. While clotting is both necessary and beneficial, stopping bleeding and allowing the repair of damaged arteries and veins, sometimes clots can develop in the wrong place. This can cause devastating injury to the body, by interrupting the normal flow of blood to the places it’s supposed to be going to. When blood flow to the brain is cut off, the brain begins to die within minutes.
Mini-strokes, or transient ischemic attacks, occur when blood flow is only temporarily blocked. A TIA may happen quickly, seem minor, and have no lasting effects, but any interruption should be treated as a major incident. TIAs are often an indicator of a much more serious, major stroke to come.
The clots that cause ischemic strokes can form in two ways. Either a clot forms elsewhere in the body and travels to the brain, or forms in one of the cerebral arteries and grows until blood flow is blocked. They can also be caused by plaque buildup in the arteries narrowing the amount of blood getting through.
Any experience of stroke symptoms, such as slurred speech, blurred vision, disorientation, or numbness and weakness in the face or extremities should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.