What is a Stroke?
If you are here you may be wondering, what is a stroke? What are the stroke symptoms? What are the stroke signs?
Simply put, A stroke is a brain attack or injury that occurs within the brain.
The injury is typically caused from a lack of blood flow or because of a leaking of blood to a specific part of the brain.
How do these kind of injuries occur? What are the causes of stroke?
Most often these types of injuries happen when a blood clot is formed in an artery or in a blood vessel or there is bleeding in the brain. These vessels and arteries are responsible for the transportation of blood and oxygen from your heart to your brain. Blood carries oxygen which is required for your brain to function normally. When the normal flow of blood is disrupted because of a blockage or leak, the part of your brain which normally would receive oxygen quickly begins to fail.
This failure is called a stroke.
To help you better understand how the mechanics and causes of stroke works, please view this video that will offer an overview an anatomical visual of events that could possibly lead to stroke.
Brain cells quickly begin to die only minutes after blood flow is disrupted. A person will experience weakness or paralysis in parts of their body as a result of the brain injury. The severity of the stroke is determined by several factors.
- The type of stroke: Ischemic or Hemorrhagic.
- Quick Fact: 87% of strokes are Ischemic. 13% are Hemorrhagic
- The period of time a stroke goes untreated
- The amount of bleeding that occurs during a stroke
- The area of the brain affected by the stroke
Who is at risk for stroke? Stroke risks.
A stroke can happen to anyone at anytime regardless of gender, age, or race. However, stroke is largely preventable. You can prevent 80% or more of your stroke risk by committing to healthy lifestyles. There are both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for stroke:
- Controllable Risks
- Blood Pressure
- Alcohol Use
- Physical Activity
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Uncontrollable Risks
- Family History
- Previous Stroke Victims
- Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD)
- Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
To help you better understand stroke symptoms, listen and watch this short video from expert Dr. Hilliard Slavick (Chief Neurological Physician and Stroke Physician Champion) as he discusses stroke signs and stroke symptoms.
Stroke symptoms and signs vary from person to person and even gender to gender between men and women. Symptoms are usually very sudden depending on the severity and type of stroke (ischemic or hemorrhagic) that occurs or if a person has had many gradual smaller strokes that have gone unnoticed.
Stroke Symptoms occurring in both men and women:
- Numbness affecting one side of the body
- Quickly onset confusion or inability to think straight or understand simple commands
- Severe headache or migraine like symptoms
- Blindness or blurry vision in one or both eyes
- Unable to walk straight or balance
Stroke Symptoms in Women:
- Shortness of breath or tightness in chest
- Chest Pain or angina like pain
- Palpitations (Abnormal heart beat) heart beating too fast or slow
- Nausea and feeling sick to stomach
- Sudden pain in the extremities like arms, legs, hands, or feet
If you or someone you know is experiencing any or a combination of these stroke signs and stroke symptoms, please DO NOT hesitate to get emergency help IMMEDIATELY by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency response phone number.
Remember : Every second counts for a stroke victim.
An easy way to remember these stroke signs and stroke symptoms to think F.A.S.T.!
- F: Face – Does someones face droop to one side? Can they smile without one side drooping?
- A: Arms – Can a person lift both of their arms over their head? Is one arm unable to raise?
- S: Speech – Is a person able to speak normally? Does it sound like they are slurring or sound strange?
- T: Time – Dial 911 immediately if you or another person is experiencing these symptoms.
How is stroke diagnosed? What is a stroke – Prognosis.
Here is some additional information regarding stroke diagnosis and prognosis. A person will initially undergo a physical examination. If believed to have suffered a stroke, a CT scan would immediately be initiated to determine if a patient has suffered an Iscehemic or Hemorrhagic stroke. It is important for a doctor to make a distinction between the two as a Hemorrhagic stroke is much more life threatening and requires different treatment.
A doctor may initiate an EKG to determine if there is a problem or irregularity in your heart beat or vitals. They may also perform blood tests to determine your current state of health or see how quickly your blood clots. It is also possible that the doctor will perform a doppler scan or ultrasound to determine blood flow through specific arteries.
After a stroke is diagnosed the treatment would depend on the type of stroke a person has had.
In an Ischemic stroke case, a patient would likely be given a clot-dissolving medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA). This medicine would hope to clear the immediate clot and restore normal blood flow to the brain. They may also be given a blood thinner such as aspirin to promote better blood flow.
A Hemorrhagic case is treated slightly different as this would indicate bleeding is or has occurred. The doctors number one priority will be to stabilize blood pressure and reduce pressure in the brain. Signs of increased brain pressure include confusion, restlessness, and the inability to understand or follow commands. Doctors would also prevent a patient from straining themselves in any other physical manner which may increase pressure such as: lifting, coughing, vomiting, or passing stool. If the bleeding does not stop or is too severe, surgery would need to be considered to remove the blood and decrease the pressure in the head.
What types of disabilities result from stroke?
- Speech Problems (Aphasia and Dysarthria)
- Weakness (Hemiparesis)
- Paralysis (Hemiplegia)
- Numbess in one side of body (Hemiparesthesia)
- Cognitive Impairment (Dementia, Apraxia, Agnosia, Neglect)
- Inability to Swallow (Dysphagia)
How does a person rehabilitate or recover from a stroke?
Recovery after a stroke is a lifelong process and the disability that results is usually permanent dependent on the amount of brain damage suffered.
There are several types of rehabilitation that will improve a persons emotional and physical quality of life. There are many programs designed to help stroke victims relearn basic skills such as grooming and eating and also cope with the emotional struggles that may result post-stroke. A stroke victim should educate themselves as much as possible and make life changes to prevent future stroke possibilities.
What are the current stroke statistics?
- Over 700,000 stroke cases occur annually just in the United States
- 163,000 of those stroke victims will die
- Every 45 seconds someone has a stroke
- Stroke care costs $40-$70 billion dollars in the US each year
- Less than 20% of Americans can identify ONE stroke symptom.
This makes stroke the third most common cause of death in the United States.
What type of research is being done about stroke?
There are a lot of great organizations and groups committed to curing stroke, spreading stroke awareness, preventing stroke, and committed to stroke research.
One of the premier stroke research groups is the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, known as the NINDS. The NINDS is responsible for conducting different types of clinical trials and combining them with the newest stroke research in laboratories and clinics at the NIH (The National Institutes of Health). NINDS use grant money to study how strokes happen and determine the most important mechanisms and stroke risk factors that cause the disabling strokes and unfortunate deaths that occur as a result of stroke. Scientists are working hard every day to invent new treatments and methods to repair brain damage to restore normal function. The latest research suggests that the brain can compensate for lost function resulting from strokes.
We hope you’ve found this resource valuable. Help prevent a stroke today.