Women tend to have symptoms that aren’t typical, such as a sudden pain on one side of the body. They also tend to wait longer before seeking treatment than men do, and have more difficult recoveries.
Stroke, also called brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, either by a blood clot blocking one of the vital blood vessels in the brain or by pressure from blood spilling from a burst vessel into surrounding tissues.
When their oxygen supply is cut off, brain cells die. The effect of brain-cell death resulting from stroke depends on the size and location of the stroke. Larger strokes may cause paralysis (inability to move part of the body), loss of speech or even death.
There are two types of stroke—ischemic stroke, caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain, and hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a ruptured blood vessel.
- Ischemic stroke develops much like a heart attack does. A clot breaks free and flows with the blood until it clogs a vessel in the brain. The clot may originate in the carotid artery in the neck or in the heart, when atrial fibrillation or other arrhythmias cause clots to form in the heart chambers. A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or warning stroke, occurs when the clot dissolves naturally. Although TIAs usually end within a day and cause little lasting damage, they signal an increased risk of a major stroke.
- Hemorrhagic stroke may be a consequence of high blood pressure, aging, diabetes and/or smoking, which can lead to an aneurysm—a ballooning weak spot in the wall that makes the blood vessel more likely to rupture. Head injuries and the use of blood-thinning drugs also may cause bleeding in the brain and lead to a stroke.
A stroke is a medical emergency, requiring immediate attention. Call 911 if any of these symptoms come on suddenly:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs, often affecting only one side of the body
- Trouble speaking or understanding what others are saying
- Problems seeing with one or both eyes, or sudden double vision
- Loss of balance, dizziness or difficulty walking
- Severe headache with no known cause
Ischemic stroke can be treated by “clot-busting” drugs that can restore blood flow, if delivered within three hours of the beginning of symptoms. Hemorrhagic stroke is treated by surgery to fix damaged vessels and remove blood from around the brain. Medication to help control bleeding and reduce swelling may also be effective.
The extent of recovery from stroke depends on which part of the brain was affected, how much it was damaged and the type of stroke. Brain cells that die during an ischemic stroke don’t grow back, although those that were merely damaged may recover. After hemorrhagic stroke, the affected brain cells still may function somewhat, once the blood is removed. In either case, with rehabilitation therapy, surrounding cells may take over some of the tasks of the injured cells, allowing stroke survivors to regain function over the months and years following the stroke.
Nutrition and Prevention
Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.
- Lifestyle Changes
- Healthy Diet
- Reduce Stress
- Stop Smoking
- Healthy Cholesterol Levels
- Reduce Sodium
Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011
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