Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is stopped. There are two main kinds of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. According to the American Stroke Association, 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic. This occurs when a blood vessel gets blocked and stops blood flow to a part of your brain. The brain cells and tissues can die within minutes without oxygen and nutrients. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding on to the brain tissue, which may form a clot and stops blood flow.
Causes and Risk Factors
Strokes can occur in people of all ages, but you have a greater risk of stroke if you are an older adult, are a man, have diabetes, if a family member has had a stroke, or if you have had a prior stroke or heart attack. You can decrease your risk of stroke if you quit smoking, control your blood pressure and cholesterol level, and stay active. Recent research also shows evidence that people on birth control or receiving hormone replacement therapy have an overall 29 percent increased risk of stroke, in particular a ischemic stroke.
Nothing is more important than a life. If you spot the warning signs of stroke, call 911 right away.
Warning signs may include some or all of the following symptoms, which are usually sudden:
- Severe headache
- Confusion and disorientation
- Numbness or weakness in an arm, leg or face, especially on one side
- Abnormal or slurred speech
- Dizziness, nausea, or vomiting
- Loss of vision or difficulty seeing
- Loss of balance, coordination, or the ability to walk
Stroke may occur suddenly, with little or no warning, and the results can be devastating. It is crucial that you seek medical treatment immediately so proper blood flow and oxygen be restored to the brain as soon as possible. Ischemic stroke is treated by removing the obstruction and restoring blood flow to the brain. One treatment is a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which must be administered within a three-hour window from the onset of symptoms to work best. There are also surgical options, your neurosurgeon will recommend the best form of treatment depending on your health and your needs. A hemorrhagic stroke usually requires surgery to relieve pressure within the skull caused by bleeding.
After a stroke you may have problems with movement, speech, and thinking clearly. You may have emotional or behavioral changes, memory loss, numbness or pain in parts of your body, and other lingering problems. It is important to follow your rehabilitation program to achieve optimal function.