What is Stroke?

A stroke is a "brain attack". It can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of 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.

Stroke breakdown

  • 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 stroke.

  • Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.

  • Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.

Types Of Stroke

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.