What Is Stroke?

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A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off. When brain tissue doesn't get enough oxygen and nutrients, that part of the brain can die - often within minutes. This damage can result in loss of certain body functions. The functions affected depend on which part and how much of the brain was damaged.

Types of Stroke

Ischemic stroke occurs as a result of a clot that blocks the flow in a vessel which supplies blood to the brain. It accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases.

Cryptogenic stroke is an ischemic stroke with no apparent cause. This type of stroke occurs 30 to 40 percent of the time. Ongoing testing such as a loop recorder or 30 day monitor may be ordered to help determine the cause.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures in the brain. Blood spills into the brain, damaging tissue and cells.

Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA, is caused by a temporary clot. Often called a “mini stroke,” these warning strokes should be taken very seriously. Those who experience TIAs are at an increased risk for a stroke in the future.

Who Is at Risk for Stroke?

Both men and women can have a stroke at any age although more women than men die from stroke. There is also a higher incidence of  death and disability from a stroke among African Americans. 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

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • History of prior stroke
  • Family history of stroke
  • Excessive alcohol drinking

Preventing Stroke

Some people who have a stroke have no lasting effects, while others lose important brain functions. Knowing your risk factors, and limiting them if possible, can greatly reduce your chances of stroke.

Some things you can do to help prevent stroke:

  • Know your risk factors and work to change the ones you can
  • Stop smoking
  • Make healthy food choices including getting the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Be physically active
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Take your medicines instructed by your healthcare provider