What exactly happens when you have a stroke?

A stroke is the sudden destruction of brain cells when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, usually by a blockage in a blood vessel. It can cause weakness, speech problems, paralysis, and death, although most people survive.

Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease. It affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it starts to die.

What Are the Types of Stroke?
Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain.
Diagnosis of Stroke
When someone has shown symptoms of a stroke or a TIA (transient ischemic attack), a doctor will gather information and make a diagnosis. A doctor may use many different tests. The ones listed here are just some of the more common options.
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Acute and PreventativeTreatments of Stroke
Because their mechanisms are different, the treatments for the types of stroke are different.
What Are the Effects of Stroke?
The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions. If a stroke occurs and blood flow can't reach the region that controls a particular body function, that part of the body won't work as it should.


Impact of Stroke

About 780,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds.

Stroke kills more than 150,000 people a year. That's about 1 of every 16 deaths. It's the No. 3 cause of death behind diseases of the heart and cancer.

On average, every 3 to 4 minutes someone dies of stroke.

Of every 5 deaths from stroke, 2 occur in men and 3 in women.

The 2004 stroke death rates per 100,000 population for specific groups were 48.1 for white males, 47.2 for white females, 74.9 for black males and 65.5 for black females

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What Are the Types of Stroke?

Clot (Ischemic)Bleed (Hemorrhagic)TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)


If we consider an isolated blood vessel, blood flow to the brain tissue can be hampered in two ways:

  1. the vessel clogs within (ischemic stroke)
  2. the vessel ruptures, causing blood to leak into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke)

Ischemic

Ischemic stroke accounts for about 83 percent of all cases.Ischemic strokes occur as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. The underlying condition for this type of obstruction is the development of fatty deposits lining the vessel walls. This condition is called atherosclerosis. These fatty deposits can cause two types of obstruction:

Cerebral thrombosis refers to a thrombus (blood clot) that develops at the clogged part of the vessel.

Cerebral embolism refers generally to a blood clot that forms at another location in the circulatory system, usually the heart and large arteries of the upper chest and neck. A portion of the blood clot breaks loose, enters the bloodstream and travels through the brain’s blood vessels until it reaches vessels too small to let it pass. A second important cause of embolism is an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation. It creates conditions where clots can form in the heart, dislodge and travel to the brain.

Hemorrhagic

Hemorrhagic stroke accounts for about 17 percent of stroke cases.

It results from a weakened vessel that ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain. The blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue. The two types of hemorrhagic strokes are intracerebral hemorrhage or subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. Two types of weakened blood vessels usually cause hemorrhagic stroke: aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).

An aneurysm is a ballooning of a weakened region of a blood vessel.  If left untreated, the aneurysm continues to weaken until it ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Download more information on aneurysm.

An arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels. Any one of these vessels can rupture, also causing bleeding into the brain. Download more information on AVM.

Transient ischemic attacks

Also called TIAs, transient ischemic attacks are minor or warning strokes. In a TIA, conditions indicative of an ischemic stroke are present and the typical stroke warning signs develop. However, the obstruction (blood clot) occurs for a short time and tends to resolve itself through normal mechanisms.

Even though the symptoms disappear after a short time, TIAs are strong indicators of a possible major stroke. Steps should be taken immediately to prevent a stroke.

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