About Strokes

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the human brainStroke ranks as the third leading killer in the United States. A stroke can be devastating to you and your family, robbing you of your independence. It is the most common cause of adult disability.

What is a stroke?

A stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails. Brain cells can die from decreased blood flow and the resulting lack of oxygen. There are two broad categories of stroke: those caused by a blockage of blood flow and those caused by bleeding. While not usually fatal, a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or neck, called an ischemic stroke, is the most frequent cause of stroke and is responsible for about 80 percent of strokes. These blockages stem from three conditions:

  • the formation of a clot within a blood vessel of the brain or neck, called thrombosis
  • the movement of a clot from another part of the body such as the heart to the neck or brain, called embolism
  • a severe narrowing of an artery in or leading to the brain, called stenosis.

Bleeding into the brain or the spaces surrounding the brain causes the second type of stroke, called hemorrhagic stroke.

Learn the warning signs

Warning signs are clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. If you observe one or more of these signs of a stroke or "brain attack," don't wait! Call a doctor or dial 911 right away!

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Other danger signs that may occur include double vision, drowsiness and nausea or vomiting. Sometimes the warning signs may last only a few moments and then disappear. These brief episodes, known as transient ischemic attacks or TIAs, are sometimes called mini-strokes. Although brief, they identify an underlying serious condition that isn't going away without medical help. Unfortunately, since they clear up, many people ignore them. Don't. Heeding them can save your life.

Sources: www.nih.gov and www.cdc.gov

  • Last updated: 04/30/2013
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Myths about Strokes

Myth: You can't prevent a stroke
Reality: Strokes are largely preventable by following a healthy lifestyle.

Myth: A stroke cannot be treated.
Reality: Strokes require immediate emergency treatment.

Myth: Strokes only strike the elderly.
Reality: A stroke can happen to anyone.

Myth: Strokes happen to the heart.
Reality: A stroke is a "brain attack."

Myth: Stroke recovery only lasts for a few months following a stroke.
Reality: Stroke recovery continues throughout your life.