10/19/2012 03:19 pm ET

Embolic Stroke: Fidel Castro's Rumored Condition, Explained

Fidel Castro is rumored to have suffered an embolic stroke, according to news reports.

Doctor Jose Marquina, who supposedly has firsthand knowledge of the 86-year-old former Cuban leader's health condition, told El Nuevo Herald that Castro is "very close to a neurovegetative state."

However, the Associated Press reported that Marquina has made claims that never came to fruition in the past, and that Marquina would not identify his sources of knowledge regarding Castro's condition.

The AP also reported that Castro's family members have denied that he is gravely ill.

If Marquina's reports are indeed true, though, an embolic stroke would leave Castro with problems performing basic functions like eating, the New York Daily News reported.

An embolic stroke is a type of ischemic stroke (an ischemic stroke is caused by blockages or narrowing of brain arteries, and comprises about 80 percent of all strokes). Embolic stroke is caused when a clot called an embolus that comes from another part of the body gets lodged in the brain's arteries, the National Stroke Association reported. The clot often comes from the heart.

Common symptoms of a stroke include extreme headache, problems with balance and coordination, vision problems, feeling confused and sudden weakness/numbness, according to the University of Washington Medicine website.

Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle, being obese, smoking and drinking too much alcohol can all raise the risk of stroke. Other nonchangeable risk factors include being a man, being over the age of 55, having a family history and being African American, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Recovery after a stroke differs from person to person, University of Washington Medicine reported, with younger people having better recovery than older people.



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