While strokes are the third most common cause of death in the United States, and one of the main causes of disability, few people can’t tell the difference between having a stroke and having a heart attack.
Strokes kill more than 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths.
- Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of a stroke.
- About 185,00 strokes—nearly 1 of 4—are in people who have had a previous stroke.
- About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.
A stroke is the interruption of blood flow to the brain. It cuts off oxygen and nutrients that the brain needs to function, causing brain cells to die.
There are two common types of stroke and one warning:
- Ischemic Stroke – This is the most common type of stroke. It is caused by a blood clot in a vessel or an artery in the brain.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke – This type accounts for about 20% of strokes. It is caused by a broken blood vessel in the brain.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) – A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a “mini-stroke.” It is different from the major types of stroke because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time—usually no more than 5 minutes.2
It is important to know that:
- A TIA is a medical emergency, just like a major stroke.
- Call 9-1-1 right away if you feel signs of a stroke or see symptoms in someone around you.
- There is no way to know in the beginning whether symptoms are from a TIA or from a major type of stroke.
- Like ischemic strokes, blood clots often cause TIAs.
- More than a third of people who have a TIA and don’t get treatment have a major stroke within 1 year.
- As many as 10% to 15% of people will have a major stroke within 3 months of a TIA.
Recognizing and treating TIAs can lower the risk of a major stroke. If you have a TIA, your health care team can find the cause and take steps to prevent a major stroke.
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Tobacco use
- High cholesterol
Quitting smoking and keeping health problems under control can greatly reduce the likelihood of having a stroke. But it is still important to know the warning signs.
If you have these symptoms, or you are around someone else who does, immediate medical attention is imperative:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs – This typically occurs on only one side of the body, but it could be on both sides
- Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others
- Sudden impaired vision, in one or both eyes
- Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking
- A sudden, severe, and inexplicable headache
“Suddenly” is the operative word here, as in without warning.
The after effects can be devastating…
- A stroke can leave its victim paralyzed
- It can cause mental and emotional problem
- It can impair speech and cause pain after the immediate danger has passed
- And if medical treatment is not obtained quickly, it can result in death.
Getting medical attention right away is crucial to a stroke patient’s health.
In some cases, the symptoms may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting, a stiff neck, a seizure or unconsciousness.
Even though the symptoms tend to get progressively worse, in some cases they might seem to go away.
Every Minute Counts
When a person is having a stroke, time is the most important factor. Getting medical attention as quickly as possible can greatly reduce their risk of death or disability.
They should see a doctor within 1 hour in order to be evaluated and get treatment started.
- For an Ischemic stroke (where blood flow to the brain is blocked) patients can receive clot-dissolving drugs, but they must be administered within 3 hours of the onset of the stroke.
- For Hemorrhagic strokes (caused by a broken blood vessel) treatment is more complicated, but getting the patient to the hospital quickly can greatly increase their chances of survival and reduce the incidence of disability.