It was the year 2004, when during a stage of the Vuelta a Asturias, a young 21-year-old cycling promise named Alberto Contador suddenly noticed that something was wrong. He lost sight of the bike, fell to the ground, and began convulsing. At the Oviedo Hospital they detected a cerebral hemorrhage, apparently as a result of the head injury suffered in the fall. He was discharged, since it was a minor hemorrhage, but after a few hours the seizures began again. After performing new diagnostic tests, a brain malformation was detected, specifically a congenital cavernoma, causing the brain hemorrhage. He underwent emergency surgery to remove the clot and the story of sporting success that followed is known to all. Surely you remember that Contador's health problem was referred to in the press as a stroke. But what exactly is a stroke? Stroke or acute cerebrovascular disease is a sudden alteration of the cerebral circulation that affects an area of the brain and causes the loss or alteration of some capacity associated with the affected brain area. Two types of stroke are distinguished. The ischemic stroke in which there is a blockage of blood vessels preventing the arrival of blood to a part of the brain, and the hemorrhagic stroke in which the rupture of an artery causes a cerebral hemorrhage. What population does stroke affect? Stroke can affect anyone and at any age, although it is more common in people over 65 years of age. Between 120,000 and 130,000 people suffer a stroke each year in Spain. Stroke is the main cause of disability in adults and the second cause of death in the Spanish population. One in 4 men and one in 5 women will have a stroke if they reach the age of 85.
What are the risk factors that increase the chances of having a stroke? These can be divided into non-modifiable ones, including brain malformations, and modifiable ones such as high blood pressure, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycemia or diabetes, alcoholism, sedentary lifestyle, etc. It is very important to know the possible symptoms of a stroke, since early diagnosis significantly improves the prognosis of the disease. These can be: loss of strength or sensitivity in half of the body, deviation of the corner of the mouth, total or partial loss of vision in one or both eyes, difficulty speaking or understanding... etc. Stroke is a treatable disease, but it is very important to detect it early, since in the period of time that passes from the onset of symptoms until the brain injury occurs is when we can save that area of the brain that is at risk. There are currently stroke units in many hospitals as well as the so-called "stroke code" in the emergency services for the fastest and most efficient care possible for this pathology. The treatment is aimed at dissolving or removing the thrombus that has obstructed the brain artery, allowing normal circulation to be restored. This can be done by intravenous thrombolysis (introduction of drugs through a vein) during the first 6 hours from the onset of symptoms, hence the importance of early detection, or by endovascular surgery, introducing a catheter through the groin through the femoral artery to the brain to remove or dissolve the thrombus. In conclusion, in addition to avoiding risk factors, it is necessary to know the symptoms so that, if they appear, seek medical attention as soon as possible, since the less time that elapses since the appearance of symptoms, the more likely it is that everything go well, as happened to Alberto Contador.