A stroke, or brain attack, happens when blood flow to your brain is stopped. It is an emergency situation.
The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to work well. If blood supply is stopped even for a short time, this can cause problems. Brain cells begin to die after just a few minutes without blood or oxygen.
When brain cells die, brain function is lost. You may not be able to do things that are controlled by that part of the brain. For example, a stroke may affect your ability to:
A stroke is caused when blood flow to your brain is stopped or disrupted.
There are 2 kinds of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.
Anyone can have a stroke at any age. But your chance of having a stroke increases if you have certain risk factors. Some risk factors for stroke can be changed or managed, while others can’t.
Risk factors for stroke that can be changed, treated, or medically managed:
Risk factors for stroke that can’t be changed:
Other risk factors include:
A stroke is an emergency situation. It’s important to know the signs of a stroke and get help quickly. Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Treatment is most effective when started right away.
Stroke symptoms may happen suddenly. Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
Other less common symptoms of stroke may include:
A TIA can cause many of the same symptoms as a stroke. But TIA symptoms are passing. They can last for a few minutes or up to 24 hours. Call for medical help right away if you think someone is having a TIA. It may be a warning sign that a stroke is about to occur. But not all TIAs are followed by a stroke.
FAST is an easy way to remember the signs of a stroke. When you see these signs, you will know that you need to call 911 fast. FAST stands for:
F - Face drooping. One side of the face is drooping or numb. When the person smiles, the smile is uneven.
A - Arm weakness. One arm is weak or numb. When the person lifts both arms at the same time, one arm may drift downward.
S - Speech difficulty. You may see slurred speech or difficulty speaking. The person can't repeat a simple sentence correctly when asked.
T - Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, call 911 right away. Call even if the symptom goes away. Make note of the time the symptoms first appeared.
Your healthcare provider will take a complete health history and do a physical exam. You will need tests for stroke such as brain imaging and measuring the blood flow in the brain. Tests may include:
The following heart tests may also be used to help diagnose heart problems that may have led to a stroke:
Your healthcare provider will create a care plan for you based on:
There is no cure for stroke once it has occurred. But advanced medical and surgical treatments are available. These can help reduce your risk for another stroke.
Treatment is most effective when started right away. Emergency treatment after a stroke may include:
Recovery from stroke and the specific ability affected depends on the size and location of the stroke.
A small stroke may cause problems such as weakness in your arm or leg.
Larger strokes may cause parts of your body to not be able to move (be paralyzed). Larger strokes can also cause loss of speech or even death.
Know your risk for stroke. Many stroke risk factors can be changed, treated, or medically modified. Some things you can do to control your risk factors are listed below.
A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk for stroke. That includes the following:
Take your medicines as instructed by your healthcare provider. The following medicines can help prevent stroke:
Several types of surgery may be done to help treat a stroke, or help to prevent one. These include:
How a stroke affects you depends on where the stroke occurs in your brain. It also depends on how much your brain is damaged.
Many people who have a stroke are left with paralysis of one of their arms.
Other problems can include having trouble with:
Some people may need long-term physical rehabilitation. They may not be able to live in their home without help.
Support services are available to help with physical and emotional needs after a stroke.
Strokes can happen again. Call your healthcare provider if you have symptoms that seem like a stroke, even if they don’t last long.
If you have repeated damage to your brain tissue, you may be at risk for life-long (permanent) disabilities.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Stroke isn't just your grandparents' worry. Younger people are getting strokes, according to the American Medical Association. And many of these strokes are preventable. Watch Dr. Dion Graybeal, one of our neuro-hospitalists, explain why.