Do you know the warning signs of stroke? Learn to recognize the signs of
a stroke and call 911 immediately if you—or someone with you—exhibits
any of these signs.
Remember: minutes count when you are having a stroke.
When you have a stroke, a part of your brain is deprived of oxygen-rich
blood and within minutes, brain cells begin to die. This causes symptoms
in the part of the body controlled by the brain area affected. Strokes
can cause permanent brain damage and disability and are the fifth leading
cause of death in the U.S. There are two main types of strokes.
Ischemic (is-KE-mik) stroke
Nearly 90% of strokes are ischemic strokes.
Ischemic strokes occur when a clot, caused by atherosclerosis (the buildup
of plaque in your arteries), blocks a blood vessel, cutting off the supply
of blood. A clot can form directly in a blood vessel that supplies blood
to the brain (cerebral thrombosis), or it can form in an artery elsewhere
in the body. If the clot breaks lose, it can get stuck in a small blood
vessel in the brain. This is called a cerebral embolism. Many ischemic
strokes are caused by clots that form in the carotid arteries, the main
arteries on either side of your neck.
A Transient Ischemic Attack or mini-stroke (TIA) is also caused by a clot-related
blockage. However, a TIA is temporary. The clot either dissolves on its
own or nearby blood vessels reroute blood around the clot. TIAs usually
don’t cause long-term brain damage, but they are a warning sign
that you are at risk for a stroke.
Hemorrhagic (hem-a-RAJ-ik) stroke
The other 10% of strokes are caused when a weakened blood vessel in the
brain ruptures. The blood accumulates and puts pressure directly on brain
tissue or in the space between your brain and your skull.
The first line of a treatment for a stroke is to dissolve the clot or to
find and control bleeding in the brain.
Of course, it’s best to prevent strokes in the first place. One way
to do this is by managing your blood pressure. More than three-quarters
of first-time stroke patients have blood pressure that is higher than
140/90 mm Hg. A 10 mm Hg drop in the top number, or a 5 mm Hg drop in
the bottom number, can cut your stroke risk in half, according to the
American Stroke Association. Eating well, exercising, and controlling
your blood sugar and cholesterol will all help lower your risk of stroke.