Stroke Awareness Month


May is Stroke Awareness month, so we are on a mission to raise awareness of different types of strokes, as well as how to identify a stroke!  A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, which deprives the brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients, within minutes brain cells start to die.  A stroke is considered a brain attack and is considered a medical emergency.  Immediate treatment is vital, early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.  The good news is that strokes can be treated and even prevented, with recent research and advancements over the past decade, many fewer Americans die of stroke now than 10 to 15 years ago.  There are 3 types of strokes: transient ischemic attack or TIA, ischemic attack, or hemorrhagic stroke.  Let’s review each in detail.

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When blood flow to the part of the brain stops for a short period of time, also called transient ischemic attack (TIA), it can mimic stroke like symptoms.  These symptoms appear and last less than 24 hours before disappearing.  While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are a serious warning sign that a stroke may happen in the future and should not be ignored! 

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot.  This causes blood not to reach the brain.  High blood pressure is the most important risk for this type of stroke.  Ischemic strokes account for about 87% of all strokes.  An ischemic stroke can occur in two ways, emoblic stroke or thrombotic stroke.

In an embolic stroke, a blood clot or plaque fragment forms somewhere in the body (usually the heart) and travels to the brain.  Once in the brain, the clot travels to a blood vessel small enough to block its passage.  The clot lodges there, blocking the blood vessel and causing a stroke.  About 15% of embolic strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation (Afib).  The medical word for this type of blood clot is embolus.

A thrombotic stroke is caused by a blood clot that forms inside one of the arteries supplying blood to the brain.  This type of stroke is usually seen in people with high cholesterol levels and narrowing arteries.  The medical word fro a clot that forms on a blood-vessel deposit is thrombus.

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Of the two types of strokes, hemorrhagic and ischemic; a hemorrhagic stroke is the most severe and also the least common.  According to the National Stroke Association, “15% of all strokes are hemorrhagic, but they are responsible for 40% of all stroke deaths.”

A hemorrhagic stroke is either a brain aneurysm burst or a weakened blood vessel leak.  Blood spills into or around the brain and creates swelling and pressure, which causes damage to the brain cells and tissue.  There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke, called intracerebral and subarachnoid.

The most common type of hemorrhagic stroke is intracerebral hemorrhage, which happens when a blood vessel inside the brain bursts and leaks blood into surrounding brain tissue.  The bleeding causes brain cells to die and the affected part of the brain stops working correctly.  High blood pressure and aging blood vessels are the most common causes of this type of stroke.

Sometimes intracerebral stroke can be caused by an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).  AVM is a genetic condition of abnormal connection between arteries and veins and most often occurs in the brain or spine.  If AVM occurs in the brain, vessels can break and bleed into the brain.  The cause of AVM is unclear but once diagnosed, it can be treated successfully.

The other hemorrhagic stroke is subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke, which involves bleeding in the area between the brain and tissue covering the brain, known as the subarachnoid space.  This type of stroke is most often caused by a burst aneurysm.  Other causes include:  AVM, bleeding disorders, blood thinners, and head injury.

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How to Identify a Stroke (Signs/Symptoms) Provided by the National Stroke Association

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke is the first step to ensuring medical help is received immediately.  For each minute a stroke goes untreated and blood flow to the brain continues to be blocked, a person loses about 1.9 million neurons.  This could mean that a person’s speech, movement, memory, and so much more could be affected.

Learn as many stroke symptoms as possible so you can recognize a stroke FAST and save a life!

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Do You Know The Facts of Strokes?

Although the stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability, strokes may be preventable if you are aware of what to look for and know the facts.  Test how much you know about strokes.

FACT: Up to 80% of strokes are preventable

FACT: At any sign of stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Treatment may be available.

FACT: Stroke can happen to anyone at any time.

FACT: Stroke is a “brain attack”.

FACT: Stroke recovery is a lifelong process.

FACT: There are nearly 7 million stroke survivors in the US and stroke is the 5th leading cause of death.

FACT: Family history of stroke increases your chances for stroke.

FACT: Temporary stroke symptoms are called transient ischemic attacks (TIA).  They are warning signs prior to actual stroke and need to be taken seriously.

For more information on strokes, please review the National Stroke Association website or you may call the Stroke Help Line, at 1-800-STROKES (1-800-787-6537).

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Blogger: Amanda Jaynes, PTA, CDT