What is a stroke?
A stroke is a "brain attack". It can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.
How a person is affected by their stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. For example, someone who had a small stroke may only have minor problems such as temporary weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or lose their ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of disability.
Recognizing a Stroke
Each year, nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. experience a stroke. That’s one stroke every 40 seconds. For every person that dies from stroke, more than 5 times that many will survive, and for them, the physical damage it causes can be enormous.
Preventing a Stroke
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of having a stroke. If you have identified personal risk factors, work with your healthcare provider to reduce your personal risk. Prevent stroke happening to you or others by following these guidelines:
Identify. Review the risk factors and identify your personal risk.
Reduce your risk factors. Work to reduce your stroke risk through lifestyle changes and if necessary medication.
Recognize and Respond. Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke by memorizing FAST. Respond to the first sight of stroke and help save lives.
Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.
A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke.
Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.
Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.
Ischemic stroke is the most common (80%) and occurs when an artery in the brain is blocked, either by a narrowing of the blood vessel (arteriosclerosis) or by a blood clot.
• Thrombotic stroke occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in the artery, usually in areas narrowed by fatty deposits (atherosclerosis)
• Embolic stroke occurs when a clot or other debris (embolus) travels to the brain from somewhere else in the body and blocks blood flow in an artery. This is often caused by abnormal heart rhythm (heartbeats), such as with atrial fibrillation, that causes pooling of blood in the heart chambers and leads to clot formation
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks or bursts and causes bleeding in the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is often associated with high blood pressure but can be due to other causes such as a weakening in the wall of the blood vessel (aneurysm) or a group of abnormally tangled blood vessels (arteriovenous malformation or AVM). Hemorrhagic strokes are less common (20%) but are responsible for more than 30% of all stroke deaths.
• Intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage small arteries in the brain over time, which makes them more likely to rupture
• Subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when an artery on or near the surface of the brain ruptures (breaks) and bleeds into the space between the brain and the skull. Often this is caused by the bursting of an aneurysm, which can develop with age or be present at birth
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is a “mini-stroke” that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery for a short time. The only difference between a stroke and TIA is that with TIA, the blockage is transient (temporary). Unlike a stroke, when a TIA is over, there is no permanent injury to the brain. However, there is no way to tell if you are having a TIA or major stroke because the signs are exactly the same.
By recognizing TIA symptoms and getting to the hospital, you can get help in identifying why the TIA occurred and get treatment. It is important to seek medical care promptly. Since TIA symptoms dissipate quickly and the body returns to normal, TIAs are often ignored and the problem believed to have passed. Remember do not ignore a TIA. The underlying problem and origin of the TIA continues to be present in your body.
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke is the first step to ensuring medical help is received immediately. For each minute a stroke goes untreated and blood flow to the brain continues to be blocked, a person loses about 1.9 million neurons. This could mean that a person’s speech, movement, memory, and so much more can be affected.
Learn as many stroke symptoms as possible so you can recognize stroke FAST and save a life!
Stroke symptoms include:
- SUDDEN numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding
- SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you observe any of these symptoms.
Note the time of the first symptom.
This information is important and can affect treatment decisions.
National Stroke Association’s AFib-Stroke Connection aims to raise awareness about the association between atrial fibrillation (AFib) and the increased risk of stroke by providing educational resources to people with AFib, caregivers and healthcare practitioners.
Eating habits, physical activity, smoking, and drinking are examples of lifestyle stroke risk factors. Lifestyle risk factors are habits or behaviors people choose to engage in. If changed, they can directly affect some medical risk factors by improving them.
High blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (AFib), high cholesterol, diabetes and circulation problems are all or medical risk factors for stroke and can be controlled. Learn more about identifying and treating these medical risk factors.
Some risk factors for stroke are simply not controllable. Learn more about the age, gender, ethnicity, and other factors that are most at risk for stroke.