Conditions & Treatments

What is a stroke?

A stroke is when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. This occurs in one of two ways: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke happens when disruption in the blood flow is caused by either a blood clot or a piece of plaque blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into surrounding tissues.

Symptoms of a Stroke

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Source: American Academy of Neurology

All of the above warning signs may not occur with each stroke. Take action immediately by calling 911 even if some of the signs go away.

Other less common symptoms include:
Sudden nausea, vomiting or fever not caused by a viral illness
Brief loss or change of consciousness such as fainting, confusion, seizures or coma
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke”

A TIA can cause many of the same symptoms as a stroke, but TIA symptoms are transient and last for a few minutes or up to 24 hours. This may be an indication a stroke is about to occur, however not all strokes are proceeded by TIAs.

How to Prevent a Stroke
The best way to prevent your risk of stroke is to monitor your blood pressure, track your cholesterol level, stop smoking, exercise regularly and check to find out if your should be taking a drug to reduce blood clotting. Also the American Heart Association has found eating fruits and green or yellow vegetables daily may protect against stroke.

Who is at Risk for Stroke?

According to the American Academy of Neurology, stroke is the third leading cause of death for adults in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability. Nationwide each year, roughly 750,000 people suffer a stroke, and about 160,000 die as a result. While there is no stereotypical stroke victim, physicians have identified some facts related to stroke:

  • Stroke risk increases shortly with age but can occur at any age
  • More than one-quarter of those who have a stroke are under 65 years old
  • Men have slightly more strokes than women
  • More women die from strokes than from breast cancer
  • African-Americans have two times the stroke risk of Caucasians
  • Those with a family history of stroke and heart disease have an increased stroke risk

Reduce Your Risk
You can't control all of your risk factors for stroke. But maintaining cardiovascular fitness by observing the following prudent practices goes a long way toward bettering your odds.

  • Control blood pressure
  • Monitor blood cholesterol
  • Stop smoking
  • Treat heart disease
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Avoid excess sodium
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Treat diabetes
  • Reduce stress

Treatment of Stroke
Treatment for a stroke varies based on type, severity and location. It depends on whether it’s caused by a blood clot (ischemic) or by bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic). Our Stroke Clinic specialists use a CT (computed tomography) scan of your head and possibly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the type of stroke you’ve had. Physicians may do further tests to discover the exact location of the clot or bleeding. Your blood pressures and breathing will be closely monitored and you might receive oxygen.

The goal of the initial treatment is to restore blood flow for an ischemic stroke or control bleeding for a hemorrhagic stroke. The faster one receives treatment the less damage will occur.

Rehabilitation for Stroke
Following emergency treatment of your stroke, after stabilization, treatment will then move to rehabilitation preventing another stroke. Controlling risk factors such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), high cholesterol or diabetes play a major factor.

Your physician may want you to take aspirin or other antiplatelet medicines. You may have to take anticoagulants to prevent another stroke if you had an ischemic stroke. To control your blood pressure, you may also need to take statins to lower high cholesterol. Carotid endarterectomy surgery may be recommended to remove plaque build up in the carotid arteries.