Last Updated: January 21, 2015
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States
and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in adults.
About 600,000 new strokes are reported in the U.S. each year. The
good news is that treatments are available that can greatly reduce
the damage caused by a stroke. However, you need to recognize the
symptoms of a stroke and get to a hospital quickly. Getting
treatment within 60 minutes can prevent disability.
What is a stroke?
A stroke, sometimes called a "brain attack," occurs when blood
flow to the brain is interrupted. When a stroke occurs, brain cells
in the immediate area begin to die because they stop getting the
oxygen and nutrients they need to function.
What causes a stroke?
There are two major kinds of stroke.
The first, called an ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot
that blocks or plugs a blood vessel or artery in the brain. About
80 percent of all strokes are ischemic. The second, known as a
hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a blood vessel in the brain that
breaks and bleeds into the brain. About 20% of strokes are
What disabilities can result from a
Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the
entire body. The effects of a stroke range from mild to severe and
can include paralysis, problems with thinking, problems with
speaking, and emotional problems. Patients may also experience pain
or numbness after a stroke.
Know the Signs
Because stroke injures the brain, you may not realize that you
are having a stroke. To a bystander, someone having a stroke may
just look unaware or confused. Stroke victims have the best chance
if someone around them recognizes the symptoms and acts
What are the symptoms of a
The symptoms of stroke are distinct because they happen
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg
(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
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
What should a bystander
If you believe someone is having a stroke-if he or she suddenly
loses the ability to speak, or move an arm or leg on one side, or
experiences facial paralysis on one side-call 911 immediately.
Act in Time
Stroke is a medical emergency. Every minute counts when someone
is having a stroke. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain,
the greater the damage. Immediate treatment can save people's lives
and enhance their chances for successful recovery
Why is there a need to act
Ischemic strokes, the most common type of strokes, can be
treated with a drug called t-PA, that dissolves blood clots
obstructing blood flow to the brain. The window of opportunity to
start treating stroke patients is three hours, but to be evaluated
and receive treatment, patients need to get to the hospital within
What is the benefit of
A five-year study by the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) found that some stroke patients who
received t-PA within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms
were at least 30% more likely to recover with little or no
disability after three months.
What can I do to prevent a
The best treatment for stroke is prevention. There are several
risk factors that increase your chances of having a stroke:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
If you smoke-quit. If you have high
blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol,
getting them under control-and keeping them under control-will
greatly reduce your chances of having a stroke.