A stroke is a “brain attack,” and much like a heart attack damages the heart, a stroke damages the brain. A stroke is an event that occurs when one of two things happen:
- A blood clot blocks an artery that supplies part of the brain disrupting blood flow to that area. This is called an ischemic stroke, and is the most common type of stroke.
- A blood vessel supplying the brain breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. This is called a hemorrhagic stroke.
In both situations the portion of the brain supplied by that artery is not receiving blood that supplies it with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive. So when either one of these things occurs brain cells begin to die. This results in brain damage.
What happens when brain cells die?
When brain cells die, the abilities those cells controlled are lost. Depending what area of the brain is effected a stroke can result in a loss of abilities such as speech, movement, and memory. How great the loss is depends how much of the brain is damaged. Symptoms can range from being paralyzed on one side of the body, to loss of the ability to speak.
Are you at risk for a stroke?
Anyone can have a stroke, but there are certain characteristics that place you at an increased risk. Certain factors such as age, gender, race, and family history are out of your control. The good news is there is something you can do. The National Stroke Association reports that approximately 80% of strokes are preventable. Listed below are risk factors that can be controlled through medical management and lifestyle changes.
Controllable Stroke Risk Factors:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Circulatory Disease
- Smoking/Tobacco Use
- Alcohol Use
- Physical inactivity
What are the Warning Signs of a Stroke?
- Sudden confusion
- Sudden unexplained headache
- Sudden drooping of one side of the face or weakness of one side of the body
- Sudden difficulty with producing or understanding speech
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or difficulty walking
It is important to note the time at which these signs first occur because for those strokes caused by clots, the most common type, there is a special time sensitive drug. This “clot-buster” drug must be administered within 3 hours of the first signs of stroke, and can reduce the likelihood of long term disability from the stroke.
The National Stroke Association has created this helpful “think FAST” acronym to help you recognize the signs of stroke in others, and seek immediate medical attention. Remember to “think FAST” and your help could make all the difference.