October 28, 2022
Stroke and Myocardial infarction are two major diseases globally. Stroke is a devastating neurological disease caused by disruption of blood supply to the brain, whereas Myocardial infarction is caused due to disruption of blood supply to the heart. Stroke is easily recognized by its symptoms like one-sided weakness of the body, facial deviation, and difficulty in speaking (slurring). Here the symptoms are overt. We have often come across the term ‘silent myocardial infarction’ or silent MI. Is there something called a silent stroke? When stroke ‘strikes’ the important areas of the brain of the brain it causes instantaneous symptoms. Silent strokes, like any other strokes, happen when the blood supply to the brain gets suddenly disrupted. The difference is that it affects those areas of the brain which do not have any visibility. Silent stroke is picked up on brain imaging techniques like MRI. They are seen as tiny dots, or as we call them, ischemic areas in the MRI.
Are silent strokes dangerous?
Our brain is made up of 100 billion neurons which are interconnected by synapses. All neurons are equally important and most have specific functions. All neurons work in tandem to execute various brain functions. However, the accumulation of multiple silent clots disrupts this beautiful tandem. It does not cause spontaneous symptoms, but when they keep on accumulating, it leads to a state called Binswanger’s state or multi-infarct state. This causes a type of dementia called vascular dementia. People with vascular dementia suffer from cognitive deficits. This may begin with difficulty in remembering things or in concentrating. As the clots accumulate, the person will face emotional issues like inappropriate laughing or crying. The person will develop difficulty in walking -- walking will be done in short steps. It can cause judgmental errors; people find it difficult to take appropriate decisions. It can also cause loss of bowel or bladder control.
What is unique about silent strokes?
Silent strokes are caused by the same factors which cause major or normal strokes. Important causes are as follows:
• Uncontrolled blood pressure
• Uncontrolled diabetes
• High cholesterol
• Multiple clots
Uncontrolled blood pressure or sugar level lead to a condition called lipohyalinosis, which is the narrowing of the tiny blood vessels. Multiple small clots may also spread to the brain due to cardiac conditions.
The damage done by these clots is permanent. The effects enumerated above are due to the accumulation of multiple clots. It is like a Systematic Investment Plan (SIP in the stock markets, where you get a lot of money in hand upon accumulating small amounts over several years). In a multi-infarct state, you get the effect of accumulated SIP of clots.
How can we prevent silent strokes?
We can prevent silent strokes through balanced diet and regular exercise. Strict control of blood pressure and sugar is equally important. Quitting smoking, and reducing intake of alcohol and salt will help in preventing silent strokes.