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What is a Stroke?

A stroke (also known as a cerebrovascular accident, CVA or brain attack) happens when blood vessels carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the brain suddenly burst or become blocked. When blood fails to get through to the affected parts of the brain, the brain cells begin to die because of lack of oxygen. The brain needs this blood supply to supply it with oxygen and nutrients.

There are 3 types of strokes:

  1. Ischemic (Is-key-mick) Stroke:  happens when the blood vessel become blocked by a clot.  You may also hear the term cerebral infarction when people are describing these types of strokes.   There are 2 types.
    1. Thrombotic-A blood clot forms inside an artery in the brain, usually from fatty plaque deposits                   
    2. Embolic-A blood clot form elsewhere in the body and travels to the brain where it blocks an artery

  2. Hemorrhagic (Hem-o-rah-jick) Stroke:  happens when a blood vessel in or around the brain ruptures causing blood to spill into the brain or the surrounding area.  When this occurs, the part of the brain the vessel was supplying fails to get the nutrients to function properly.  Also, the blood that accumulated from the rupture begins to clot, causing the normal brain tissue to be displaced resulting in disruption of normal brain activity.  People who have high blood pressure and atherosclerosis are more likely to have this type of stroke.  Hemorrhagic strokes could be caused by an aneurysm or an ateriovenous malformation (AVM-a cluster of abnormal blood vessels).   These types of stroke usually happen at night. 

  3. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA):  caused by temporary interruptions in the blood supply to the brain.  Also known as mini-strokes.  The symptoms happen rapidly and last for a short period of time and usually result in a full recovery.  TIA’s are however, precursors to larger, more severe strokes (about 1/3 of all strokes).  TIA’s can occur days, weeks, or even months before a stroke.

The types and degrees of disability that follow a stroke depend upon which area of the brain is damaged. Generally, stroke can cause five types of disabilities:

1.  Paralysis or problems controlling movement
2.  Sensory disturbances including pain
3.  Problems using or understanding language
4.  Problems with thinking and memory
5.  Emotional disturbances


Time is critical when you or someone you know is having a Stroke.  Call 911 if you think you're having a stroke.

Act F.A.S.T.

 F ace  facial droop and uneven smile
 A rm  arm numbness and arm weakness
 S peech  slurred speech, difficulty speaking or understanding
 T ime  Call 911 and get to the hospital immediately


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