Understanding Stroke

Stroke is a common medical emergency that can cause death and permanent adult disability. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 800,000 Americans suffer stroke each year. Understanding stroke – such as what causes stroke, how it can be prevented, and what to do in the event of a stroke – can help keep you and your family safe.

What is a stroke?

Blood is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the brain. When blood is not flowing to the brain properly, it is called a stroke. This deprives your brain of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells can die within minutes, causing death, permanent brain damage, or disability. Stroke can also be cause by sudden bleeding in the brain

There are three main types of stroke.

  • Ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke)
  • Hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain)
  • Transient ischemic attack (sometimes referred to as a “mini-stroke”)

What causes stroke?

Roughly 85% of strokes are ischemic stroke. This type of stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked. Ischemic stroke is often caused by blood clots.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood leaks into the brain. This causes excessive pressure, which damages brain cells. Things such as high blood pressure and aneurysms may be the cause of hemorrhagic stroke.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when blood is temporarily unable to reach the brain. Although TIA is sometimes refereed to as a “mini stroke” it is just as serious as a stroke. It can indicate a future stroke, and requires immediate medical attention. A third of people who suffer transient ischemic attack experience a major stroke within 1 year, if they do not seek treatment.

Common causes of stroke:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes

What are the signs and symptoms of stroke?

  • Difficulty speaking and understanding.
  • Confusion and slurred words.
  • Paralysis, numbness, or inability to control face or limbs.
  • Sudden loss of vision.
  • Sudden headache.
  • Difficulty walking or loss of coordination.

What should you do in the event of stroke?

On average, there’s a stroke every 4 minutes in the United States. Brain cells can die within minutes without adequate oxygen and nutrients. Getting treatment for stroke as quickly as possible is key in preventing death and disability.

Think FAST when dealing with a stroke.

  • Face – Ask the person to smile. See if they are unable to control one side of their face.
  • Arms – Ask the person raise both arms, and see if they have difficulty or are unable to do so.
  • Speech – Ask the person to repeat a sentence, and listen for slurred speech.
  • Time – Every second matters when dealing with a stroke. If you notice any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

If you notice stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical attentions. Do not wait to see if the symptoms go away. Stroke can cause permanent brain damage or claim a life in a matter of minutes.