A condition that affects us all

Katharina Schroll-Bakes
Published on May 1, 2022

The brain is the control center of the body. Although it only makes up 2% of our body weight, it consumes about 20% of our body’s energy supply. Around 1,100 liters of blood are pumped through it each day, supplying the brain with some 75 liters of oxygen and 115 grams of sugar. When a stroke interrupts the blood supply to specific areas of the organ, brain cells begin to die within a few minutes. For millennia, humans were powerless against this process.

Titelseite der 1556 in Venedig erschienenen „Opera Omnia“ von Galen
<p>Over 2,000 years ago, physicians described this condition in the Hippocratic Corpus and gave it the name apoplexia – a word that implies a sudden, violent blow. Treatment options were extremely limited: “It is impossible to cure a severe attack of apoplexy, and difficult to cure a mild one.” The celebrated Greek physician Galen therefore recommended a balanced diet in combination with running and sport – preventive measures that are just as applicable to reducing the risk of stroke today. Until the seventeenth century, it was assumed that strokes were caused by an imbalance in the mixture of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm – that is, the four humors described in the humoral theory that was developed in antiquity to explain the processes taking place in the human body.</p>
Johann Jacob Wepfer

Johann Jacob Wepfer
Source: Wellcome Library, London

Diagnosing stroke

Clearing the blockage 

Katharina Schroll-Bakes
Katharina Schroll-Bakes
By Katharina Schroll-Bakes

Expert for History Communication and Historian at the Siemens Healthineers Historical Institute