Written by eHealth Navigator

What is a stroke?

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. You can greatly reduce your risk for stroke through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication.  Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States. Over 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular disease and strokes.

Stroke can cause death or significant disability, such as paralysis, speech difficulties, and emotional problems. Some new treatments can reduce stroke damage if patients get medical care soon after symptoms begin. When a stroke happens, it is important to recognize the symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away, and get to a hospital quickly.

Warning Signs of a Stroke?

All stroke therapy is most effective when started as early as possible. If you or a loved one experiences the sudden onset of any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and get to the nearest hospital.

What are the symptoms of stroke?
•  A sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on just one side of the body
•  Difficulty walking, speaking, understanding, or seeing with one or both eyes
•  Sudden confusion, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
•  Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

What are the types of stroke?

a. Ischemic Stroke, Mini-Strokes and TIAs

An early warning sign of an impending ischemic stroke is one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or "mini-strokes."
TIAs are critical warning signs that a stroke may be on the way in the coming days or months.  During a TIA, blood flow to a part of the brain is temporarily restricted, leading to transient neurological deficits. The symptoms may be the same as those of a stroke but milder, and may last only a few minutes.   Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a "warning stroke" or a "mini-stroke" that results in no lasting damage. Recognizing and treating TIAs immediately can reduce your risk of a major stroke.  About 85% of all strokes are ischemic, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked by blood clots or fatty deposits called plaque in blood vessel linings.

b. Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. Blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke:
Intracerebral hemorrhage is the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It occurs when an artery in the brain bursts, flooding the surrounding tissue with blood.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it.

What are the treatments for stroke?

If you have a stroke, you may receive emergency care, treatment to prevent another stroke, rehabilitation to treat the side effects of stroke, or all three.
•  Emergency treatment. If you get to the hospital within three hours of the first symptoms of an ischemic stroke, a doctor may give you medications, called thrombolytics, to break up blood clots. Unfortunately, if you have had a hemorrhagic stroke, few medications can treat it, but surgery may stop the bleeding.
•  Preventing another stroke. If you have had a stroke, you are at high risk for another one. At least one in every eight stroke survivors has another stroke within 5 years.1 That's why it's important to treat the underlying causes, including heart disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, or diabetes.  Your doctor may give you medications or tell you to change your diet, exercise, or adopt other healthy lifestyle habits. Surgery may also be helpful.
•  Rehabilitation. Rehabilitation often involves physical therapy to help you relearn skills you may have lost because of the stroke. You also may need help relearning how to eat, bathe, or dress yourself.

Therapy and medications may help with depression or other mental health conditions.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 10:18AM