Shhhh! It’s time you know about silent stroke and how to detect it

A silent stroke cannot be easily detected, and hence can cause various far-reaching consequences. Here’s everything you need to know!
silent stroke
Know more about silent stroke. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Jayachandran R Updated: 3 Dec 2021, 16:14 pm IST
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Silent strokes are hard to diagnose due to the absence of symptoms. It is 14 times more common than symptomatic stroke. More than one-third of people over the age of 70 years suffer from at least one silent stroke. The patient should not ignore sudden reduction in memory and cognitive function, and must consult a doctor immediately. 

Before we discuss the symptoms, prevention and management of silent strokes, it is essential to understand what these really are.

What is a silent stroke?

In the case of stroke, there is sudden deprivation of blood and nutrients to the brain tissues, due to blockage or rupture of the arteries supplying blood to the brain. In many cases, the patients with stroke, either ischemic or hemorrhagic, present several symptoms. These include slurred speech, loss of movement, inability to lift their hands, or sudden confusion.

However, in some cases, patients do not experience any symptoms. It is because silent stroke alters that part of the brain, which is “silent”, meaning it doesn’t control any vital functions. This is known as a silent stroke.

The doctor identifies this type of stroke when patients undergo a CT scan or MRI to diagnose some other condition. The image often shows the damaged brain tissues, as a result of silent stroke.

silent stroke
Stroke can be of different types. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What are some of the symptoms of silent stroke?

Apart from the CT scan or MRI that diagnoses the silent stroke, the patient may also experience other symptoms. However, these symptoms are mistaken for aging signs. These are:

  • Problems in balancing
  • Loss of memory ( dementia) 
  • Falling frequently
  • Reduced memory
  • Reduced thinking ability
  • Alteration in mood
  • Urine leakage
What are some risk factors for silent stroke?

Several factors increase the risk of the condition. These are:

  • Underlying medical conditions: Several medical conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, atrial fibrillation, and cerebrovascular disease, increase the likelihood.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle habits such as physical inactivity, and smoking, increases the risk.
  • Drug use: Abuse of drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin increases the risk.
Managing a silent stroke

Its treatment depends upon the extent of damage in the brain. The doctor may prescribe certain medications to manage dementia. The primary aim of the treatment is to regain the lost functions. The doctor may recommend speech therapy, physical therapy, and psychotherapy. 

The recovery of damaged brain tissue is difficult and often incomplete. In the majority of cases, the healthy brain tissues take over the functions performed by the damaged part. However, in cases of prolonged and progressive silent stroke, the ability of the brain to take up the task of damaged tissues reduces. 

Silent stroke affects only limited areas of the brain. However, this does not undermine the complications of this condition. In several cases, it may result in neurological dysfunction that can affect memory and concentration. Patients experiencing a sudden alteration in cognitive functioning must consult a doctor without any delay. 

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Patients with reduced memory can perform several tasks to improve their cognitive abilities. The patients must engage in memory games, use a pillbox, make lists of essential tasks, and learn to keep necessary things at a particular place.

silent stroke
Daily exercise is a must to stay healthy and fit. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Preventing a silent stroke

There are several ways to prevent the condition. Some of them are:

  • Exercise: A study indicated that performing exercise daily for 30 minutes reduces the risk of a silent stroke by 40%. Healthy people are more unlikely to develop it. They are also in a better position to recover in case of a situation.
  • Weight management: Obesity and excessive weight increase the risk of  a silent stroke. Obese patients are more likely to have plaque in the arteries that results in blockage. A Body Mass Index of 18.5 to 24.9 indicates a healthy body weight.
  • Avoid sweetened drinks: There is an increased risk of dementia and stroke, if you consume sweetened drinks in large quantities. These sweetened beverages are associated with several cardiometabolic diseases. People should avoid drinking them.
  • Manage underlying medical conditions: Patients should manage underlying medical conditions, such as high cholesterol levels, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The persistent presence of these conditions increases the risk of a silent stroke.
  • Consume a healthy diet: A healthy diet reduces the risk of the condition. People should consume less salt and incorporate green vegetables and fresh fruits, as part of their diet.
  • Healthy lifestyle: A healthy and active lifestyle also reduces the risk of silent stroke. People should avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.

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About the Author

Dr Jayachandran R,Consultant Neurologist and Stroke Specialist,Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru (a unit of Manipal Hospitals) ...Read More

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