It can happen while you’re sitting at the kitchen table, shopping at the mall or driving down the road. It’s a devastating medical emergency that affects nearly 800,000 Americans a year—occurring once a minute every day. We’re talking about stroke, the #1 cause of disability in the United States.
What is Stroke?
A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when blood flow to part of your brain is blocked. There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery in your brain. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel ruptures and interrupts blood flow to a portion of your brain.
In addition to these, you may also experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or what’s called a “mini stroke.” This occurs when blood flow to your brain is cut-off for a short time, and TIAs can be a sign that a more serious stroke may be coming.
During a stroke, blood flow is restricted, which means certain areas of your brain don’t get as much oxygen as they should. This causes brain cells to die, which can cause you to lose the ability to speak, move or remember things. The level of disability largely depends on the extent of damage.
What are the Risk Factors of Stroke?
Many strokes can be prevented; however, most people don’t know they’re at risk for stroke. Certain controllable and uncontrollable risk factors—such as age, race, family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and an unhealthy lifestyle—can put you at an increased risk of stroke.
What are the Symptoms of Stroke?
Stroke symptoms are dependent on where the stroke occurs in the brain and the extent of damage. Symptoms of stroke can include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg—especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, or trouble speaking or understanding others
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache, with no known cause
How to Spot a Stroke and Act FAST
When it comes to stroke, timing is everything. Every minute a stroke is occurring, you can lose significant brain function. Because every minute matters, it’s important to quickly recognize the symptoms of a stroke and call 911 immediately at the first warning sign. Acting FAST can save lives and reduce permanent disability.
F – Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A – Arms: Ask the person to hold up both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the person repeat the sentence correctly or slur the words?
T – Time: If the person shows any of these symptoms call 911 immediately or get to a hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.
Advanced Treatment Options
When you or someone you love is having a stroke, it’s important to get to a certified primary stroke center (PSC)—such as Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, Indiana University Health University Hospital, Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital and Indiana University Health La Porte Hospital—as soon as possible. PSCs are certified by the Joint Commission as being committed to providing the most comprehensive care for all types of stroke. It means the facility has the staff, technologies and other resources necessary to meet the specialized needs of people experiencing a stroke.
One of the ways a PSC-certified facility can provide advanced stroke treatment is through the administration of the clot-busting drug tPA. Doctors give tPA during an ischemic stroke to dissolve the clot. And studies show people who receive tPA within three hours of the onset of stroke experience a better overall recovery. Doctors can also use special devices to remove clots mechanically from the vessels in the brain.
If bleeding occurs, like in a hemorrhagic stroke, treatment focuses on repairing the cause of bleeding and relieving pressure on the brain. This can be accomplished through surgical techniques, such as surgical clipping for a ruptured aneurysm.
For More Information
To find out more about the advanced treatment options available at IU Health Neuroscience, please visit http://iuhealth.org/methodist/neuroscience/services/stroke/stroke-diagnosis-treatments/.
To learn more about your stroke risk, complete our Stroke Risk Assessment .