A stroke happens when the brain’s blood supply is reduced or interrupted, preventing the brain tissue from receiving essential oxygen and nutrients. When a stroke occurs, the brain cells will begin to die in a matter of minutes, so it is a medical emergency and prompt treatment is critical. The quicker treatment is sought, the better the chances are of reducing brain damage and other complications. Although as much as 80 percent of stroke cases can be prevented with lifestyle changes, strokes continue to be the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and even non-fatal strokes can be tragic and life-changing. Although May is national stroke awareness month, a stroke can happen to anyone, anywhere and anytime, so it is important to be aware of the causes and symptoms at all times. Recognizing the symptoms and acting fast is key to stroke recovery, so here is some brief information to help you understand the types, causes, and symptoms of a stroke.
Types and Causes of a Stroke
A stroke is caused when there is an interruption of blood flow to specific areas of the brain. When this interruption occurs, it prevents the brain cells in the involved artery from receiving an adequate supply of oxygen, which is carried from the bloodstream. Brain cell damage occurs from the lack of oxygen, which then causes a stroke. There are three different types of stroke that may occur, depending on where the interruption occurs:
- Ischemic stroke - This is the most common type of stroke. Ischemic stroke happens when the blood vessels are blocked or narrowed, which causes a significant reduction in blood flow (ischemia). Narrowed or blocked blood vessels are often caused by fatty deposits that have built up in the blood vessels or by blood clots that travel through the bloodstream and become lodged in the blood vessels of the brain.
- Hemorrhagic stroke - This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or leaks. A brain hemorrhage may result from various conditions that affect the blood vessels, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, trauma, overtreatment of anticoagulants, an ischemic stroke leading to hemorrhage, protein deposits in the walls of blood vessels which cause the vessel wall to weaken or an aneurysm (bulges in the blood vessel walls).
- TIA or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack) - A TIA is known as a mini-stroke because the symptoms are similar to those with a stroke, but they are temporary. TIA’s don’t cause permanent damages. They are caused by temporary decreases in the blood supply to the brain.
Symptoms of a Stroke
The symptoms of a stroke may vary depending on the area of the brain that is being affected by the lack of oxygen. All types of strokes have symptoms that are related to an impairment of nerve functions and the symptoms happen suddenly and occur on one side of the body. The symptoms of a TIA also occur quickly; however; they will go away on their own. Symptoms of a stroke may include:
- Paralysis or weakness of any part of the body
- Numbness or a sensation of pins and needles anywhere in the body
- Loss of balance and coordination or trouble walking
- Change in vision, including blurred vision or trouble with eyesight in one or both eyes
- Severe headache
- Involuntary eye movements
- Memory loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Behavioral changes
- Slurred speech, inability to speak, or difficulty understanding speech
- Muscle stiffness
- Loss of sensation in any part of the body
Acting fast is crucial if you suspect that someone may be having a stroke. Receiving immediate treatment can help to minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and may even help to reduce the risk of the person’s death from a stroke. FAST is an acronym used to help recognize the warnings signs of a stroke; F-face (drooping); A-arm (weakness), S-speech (difficulty), T-time (call 9-1-1). The American Stroke Association has a FAST app that can be downloaded to help you remember the signs.
To learn more information about a stroke or for assistance in caring for a loved one that had a stroke, contact 1st Meridian Care Services.