What is a stroke?
According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is either blocked or bursts. As a result, part of the brain does not get the blood it needs, so it starts to die.
Blood carries oxygen which is necessary for all cells and organs in the body to survive, including the brain. In fact, cells in the brain start to die if they are without oxygen-rich blood for more than a few minutes.
Time is of the essence!
Call 911 immediately if you or someone nearby is experiencing the warning signs of stroke.
Types and Causes of Stroke
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. An ischemic stroke happens when an artery in the brain is blocked. Blockage may be caused by:
- Embolic Stroke. A blood clot that travels from another part of the body. In many cases, the clot travels from the heart and gets trapped in the arteries that supply blood to the brain.
- Thrombotic Stroke. A blood clot that forms in the arteries of the brain, often a result of atherosclerosis.
- Carotid artery stenosis. Narrowing of the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain. The narrowing occurs as a result of atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, and other substances) inside artery walls.
- Arterial spasm. Blood vessels have muscular walls that can tighten or loosen to help blood flow. Problems with nerves, blood vessel structure, injuries, or stimulants can cause these muscles to spasm and tighten, making it difficult for blood to flow through the blood vessel. Although spasms can cause problems on their own, they may be more likely to cause blockages in blood vessels with current atherosclerosis.
A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel bursts and spills blood into or around the brain. The leading causes of this type of stroke are:
- High blood pressure or Hypertension. Blood pressure is the force of blood on arteries walls. Prolonged high blood pressure damages and weakens blood vessels.
- Brain aneurysm. An aneurysm is an outpouching of a blood vessel wall in the brain that form in areas where the artery wall is weak or thin. The bulging, blood-filled pocket can put pressure on parts of the brain. Aneurysms that burst often have devastating consequences.
Are you at risk for a stroke?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States suffers from a stroke every 40 seconds but strokes are preventable. To learn about your risk for a stroke, answer the following questions.
- Have you or an immediate family member had a stroke?
- Have you ever had a heart attack?
- Do you have diabetes?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with high blood pressure?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with high cholesterol?
- Are you 50 years of age or older?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you exercise regularly (minimum 30 minutes, three times a week)?
- Are you overweight?
- Do you consume alcohol on a daily basis?
- Do you use drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, or heroin?
If you answered “yes” to three or more of the above questions, please contact your personal medical provider. This questionnaire has been created for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care. Only a physician or other qualified health care provider can accurately diagnose and treat stroke.
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Sudden loss of memory
If you suspect stroke in an adult or child, call 911!