What is a stroke or brain attack?
A stroke, recently termed “brain attack,” occurs when the blood supply to a portion of the brain is interrupted. This interruption of the blood supply interferes with the normal functioning of brain cells in that area. Cessation of normal functioning of brain cells results in symptoms such as arm and/or leg weakness, disturbed speech or comprehension of spoken speech, numbness, visual disturbance or other symptoms.
What is a transient ischemic attack?
Also known as a TIA, this is a brain attack for which the symptom(s) last fewer than 24 hours.
- Transient – meaning temporary
- Ischemic – meaning inadequate blood supply
- Attack – due to sudden onset
What is “CVA”?
If the symptoms of the brain attack last longer than 24 hours, it is called a “stroke” or “cerebrovascular accident” (CVA).
What interferes with blood supply in arteries?
The most common cause of stroke is a disease/disorder of an artery. Healthy arteries are smooth and elastic and efficiently carry oxygen and nourishment to brain cells, as well as to the rest of the body. Disorders of arteries include:
- Atherosclerosis: a build-up of plaque within an artery, and
- Aneurysm: a weak spot in an artery which may burst, which is called a hemorrhage
A disorder of the heart, such as abnormal heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation or disease of heart valves may send blood clots into the bloodstream, which may lodge in arteries of the brain, causing a blockage of the blood supply to brain cells.
How do I know if I’m having a stroke?
If you experience any sudden changes to your physical ability or mental status, you should seek help immediately because you might be having a stroke. Strokes can present in many different ways but there are a few common signs. A good way to remember the signs of stroke is to think “F.A.S.T”
F – Face drooping to one side or is numb
A – Arm weakness or numbness on one side
S – Speech difficulty, sudden slurred speech or inability to talk
T – Time is vital; call 911 immediately
Other signs or symptoms you may experience are a sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, sudden confusion, sudden vision changes in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking, loss of balance, dizziness, and/or a sudden severe headache with no known cause.
What do I do if I think I’m having a stroke?
It is imperative that you call 9-1-1 immediately. “Time is brain” and every second that passes causes more brain injury. Studies have been done that show that after 12 minutes without treatment a pea-sized piece of brain tissue dies. It is also important that you remember and record the time the stroke symptoms started. The time of symptom onset will be an important piece of information that will affect your treatment options once you are in the hospital.
How can I prevent stroke?
Prevention is the most effective treatment for stroke, that is, prevention of the event or prevention of extension of brain damage following stroke. The most meaningful efforts in prevention of stroke are up to us. These include controlling high blood pressure (hypertension), cessation of smoking, maintaining low cholesterol levels and normal weight, regular physical activity and treatment of heart disorders. Most recent efforts in treatment after the stroke have occurred in a “clot-busting” drug treatment now being offered in many medical centers.
What are the effects of stroke?
Signs and symptoms of stroke are dependent on the area of the brain involved in the stroke. Strokes may affect a broad spectrum of life, including physical capacities, vision, communication abilities such as speaking, comprehending, reading and written language, calculation, information processing, social sensitivity, vocations and earning power. A stroke usually results in the following:
- Health concerns
- Changes in relationships
- Other social changes
- Upset of one’s self-esteem
- Change or loss of employment
- Other psychological challenges affecting the well-being of the person surviving the stroke, as well as those close to the stroke survivor
If I had a stroke will I have another one?
There is no sure way to know if you are going to have another stroke. However, it has been shown that once you’ve had one stroke you are at an increased risk to have another one. The best way to decrease your chances of having more strokes is to manage your risk factors and consult with your doctor.
What are my risk factors for stroke?
There are a number of risk factors that cannot be changed or prevented; these factors are called non-modifiable. These non-modifiable risk factors include age, family history, race, gender, and prior history of stroke or TIA. The risk factors that can be changed, treated or controlled are called modifiable risk factors. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor/unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, obesity, cigarette smoking, diabetes, artery disease, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease and other heart diseases. Knowing your risk factors will help you plan ways to control and decrease your modifiable risk factors.
Is there life after stroke?
We have found that the more one learns about the stroke, the better one understands the stroke. The better one understands the stroke, the better one can cope with the changes it brings. The better one is at coping, the better one’s well-being. And YES, there is life after stroke.