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MAIN Arrow to HealthHealth Arrow to DiseaseDiseases & Conditions Arrow to StrokeStroke

illustration of blood clot that causes a strokeThe brain is the executive in charge of your body and your world.

Language, emotions, walking, and even breathing depend on a brain that is healthy. A stroke, even a mild one, causes damage in your brain — and in your life.

Stroke, sometimes clinically known as a cerebrovascular accident — or a "brain attack" — is caused by interruption of blood flow to the neurons, the cells in the brain that transmit information and allow you to function.

When this happens, the brain cells begin to die almost immediately from a lack of oxygen and nutrients. This often results in related physical and/or emotional symptoms. The effects vary in severity depending upon how quickly the stroke is diagnosed and treated and how much of the brain was damaged.

Most people experience what are known as ischemic strokes. These are caused by clots that block the flow of blood to vessels or arteries in the brain. Many people have little "mini-strokes" without even realizing that there was a problem.

More rarely, hemorrhagic ("hem-o-RAJ-ik") stroke is caused by a broken blood vessel that bleeds into the brain.


Early signs and symptoms of a stroke

Headache, dizziness and confusion are some of the milder symptoms of stroke. If the blot clot causing the problem moves on, or dissolves on its own, symptoms may disappear as quickly as they came. Some strokes are only diagnosed because of cumulative effects of multiple mini-strokes.

However, more severe signs of a major stroke typically manifest in difficulties with speaking, problems with vision, or sudden numbness or paralysis in the face or limbs on one side of the body.

According to the National Stroke Association, use the FAST test to remember warning signs of stroke.


signs of stroke

F = FACE : Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = ARMS : Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = SPEECH : Does their speech sound slurred or strange?
T = TIME : If you observe any of these signs (independently or together), call 9-1-1 immediately. (source: National Stroke Association - Stroke 101 Fact Sheet)


Stroke treatment

A standard treatment for ischemic stroke is t-PA, (Tissue plasminogen activator) medication which helps dissolve the blood clot that is obstructing blood flow to the brain. Treated quickly with t-PA, a stroke's debilitating physical effects have been shown to be greatly lessened, and recovery time is usually much more rapid.

Due to lack of blood flow, brain cells quickly begin to die off when stroke is not detected in time. In these cases, rehabilitation from a major stroke can help many people in their recovery -- to effectively train other parts of their brain to take over functions that the damaged part once performed. Rehabilitation usually begins immediately to help restore the patient's ability to walk and talk again, and may continue long after a patient leaves the hospital.


Stroke risk factors

Risk factors most closely associated with stroke are the same as for heart disease, and include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking.

A low fat diet rich in fruits & vegetables, and plenty of exercise, can also reduce risk of stroke and heart attack.


More about strokes around the Web:

Around the Web, find out more about causes, signs & symptoms, new treatments now under investigation, common medications, where to find accredited rehabilitation centers, and other tips & advice on decreasing your risk of stroke and heart disease ...


 

Know Stroke. Know the Signs. Act in Time. - Complete fact sheet detailing causes, signs & symptoms, what to watch for, resulting disabilities that may follow a stroke, prevention tips, plus a link to an educational video presentation.

MedlinePlus - Stroke - Find a complete guide to the topic including the latest news headlines, with helpful resources explaining more on causes, symptoms & treatment, risk prevention, rehabilitation and recovery, research and clinical trials.

Stroke - Check out this Wikipedia entry with extensive information on causes, risk factors, symptoms & treatment options for ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke, care & rehabilitation, related links & worldwide resources.

Types of Stroke - Here's an illustrated guide with facts on causes, symptoms and risk factors associated with ischemic stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage.

 

This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.

 

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