Cerebrovascular disease includes all disorders in which an area of the brain is temporarily or permanently affected by bleeding or restricted blood flow. Cerebrovascular diseases include a number of conditions, the most common being transient ischemic attack, ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.
Strokes are caused by disruption of the blood supply to the brain. This may result from either blockage (ischaemic stroke) or rupture of a blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke). The World Health Organization estimates that 6 million people each year lose their lives to strokes alones.
This section provides up-to-date information about cerebrovascular disease, details about the common types of disease, as well as the causes. To learn more about the diagnostic imaging tests used to identify cerebrovascular disease, see diagnosis.
When it comes to cerebrovascular disease, the goal of treatment is to reduce risk factors, correct the abnormality and prevent strokes from occurring. Depending on the circumstances, a doctor may order medications, such as anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, or recommend medical or surgical procedures. Go to Treatment for more information.
To reduce the risk posed by cerebrovascular disease, it is important to look at your lifestyle as a whole. In particular, it is crucial to address high blood pressure. For tips on minimising your risk of cerebrovascular disease, see Prevention.
The most common warning signs of cerebrovascular disease may include some or all of the following symptoms, which are usually sudden:
The word cerebrovascular refers to blood flow in your brain. The term cerebrovascular disease includes all disorders in which an area of the brain is temporarily or permanently affected by bleeding or restricted blood flow. Cerebrovascular diseases include a number of conditions, the most common being transient ischemic attack, ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.
The brain is irrigated by a complex structure of blood vessels, which supply different areas of the brain with the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly. When a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or is obstructed by a clot, the lack of blood flow that results will affect brain tissue and may cause a stroke.
In some cases of cerebrovascular disease, these strokes may be so small that they are only detected on brain scans later. However, in most cases, it is crucial that proper blood flow and oxygen be restored to the brain as soon as possible. Without oxygen and important nutrients, the affected brain cells are either damaged or die within a few minutes. Once brain cells die, they cannot regenerate, and can result in devastating damage such as permanent physical, cognitive and mental disabilities.
Typically, a doctor will first ask questions about your medical and family history, conduct a physical exam and order routine blood tests. The majority of cerebrovascular problems can be identified through diagnostic imaging tests, so he or she may also order one or more of the following:
Although there is currently no treatment to reverse the damage that has already occurred, treatment to prevent additional strokes is very important. Once your doctor has determined the type of your cerebrovascular disease, the goal of treatment is to reduce risk factors, correct the abnormality and prevent a stroke. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons , stroke-preventative medication is prescribed for most people with arteries narrowed less than 50%. In more serious cases, your doctor may also recommend a medical or surgical procedure.
To reduce the risk posed by cerebrovascular disease, you need to look at your lifestyle as a whole. In particular, you need to:
As well as reducing your risk of developing cerebrovascular disease, making the above changes to your lifestyle can also lower your risk of other serious health conditions, such as coronary heart disease and cancer.