The NeuroMedical Center | Patient Education Library | Stroke

Understanding Stroke

A stroke happens when blood flow to any part of the brain stops. If blood flow is cut off for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get nutrients and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing death or serious lasting damage. The longer the time that the brain is cut off from oxygen, the more severe the damage. Stroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect a stroke, call 911 and get treatment as soon as possible.

Symptoms Of Stroke

Every second counts when someone is having a stroke, that’s why it is always important to always BE FAST. If you see or have one or more of these symptoms, don’t wait, call 911 right away!

  • Balance, coordination loss, or dizziness
  • Eye, vision changes or vision loss
  • Facial drooping
  • Arm that drifts or won’t lift
  • Slurring or difficulty speaking
  • Time to call 911. 

If you or someone you’re with may be having a stroke, pay particular attention to the time the symptoms began. Some treatment options are most effective when given soon after a stroke begins.

Types of Stroke

There are two main causes of stroke: a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke).

  • Ischemic Stroke
    Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke. It happens when a sticky, fatty material called “plaque” builds up in a blood vessel in your brain. Plaque slows your blood flow. It may cause your blood to clot. This can stop the flow of blood completely. This kind of stroke can also happen when a clot travels to your brain from another part of your body, even if you don’t have plaque in your vessels.

  • Hemorrhagic Stroke
    Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a weakened blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Blood spills into the brain or the area surrounding it. The pooling blood deprives parts of the brain of oxygen and nutrients. It also puts harmful pressure on the brain.

Transient ischemic stroke (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA)—sometimes known as a ministroke–happens when blood flow to the brain is briefly interrupted. A TIA can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as a stroke, but these signs may last only a few minutes. Symptoms are gone within 24 hours with no permanent damage.

A transient ischemic stroke is a medical emergency and should not be ignored.  TIAs are often a sign that arteries are clogged and having a TIA increases your risk of having a full-blown stroke later.

Stroke Risk Factors & Prevention

Every year, close to 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke. Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. Although stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability, it is also highly preventable.

Stroke prevention is still the best medicine. The most important treatable conditions linked to stroke are:

  • High Blood Pressure -Treat it. Eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise to reduce blood pressure. Drugs are also available.
  • Cigarette Smoking – Medical help is available to help quit.
  • Heart Disease – Manage it. Your doctor can treat your heart disease and may prescribe medication to help prevent the formation of clots. If you are over 50, NINDS scientists believe you and your doctor should make a decision about aspirin therapy.
  • Diabetes- Control it. Treatment can delay complications that increase the risk of stroke.

Stroke risk factors that you can’t control include:

  • Being age 55 or over

  • Being male

  • Being African-American

  • Have a family or personal medical history of stroke or TIA

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s very important to learn about lifestyle changes and medical interventions to prevent a stroke. 

Surviving Stroke

Strokes have different effects depending on where in the brain they happen and how much brain tissue is damaged.  Complications may include:

  • Emotional and behavioral changes – People who have had strokes may have more difficulty controlling their emotions, or they may develop depression.

  • Memory loss – Many people who have had strokes experience some memory loss. Others may have difficulty thinking, reasoning, making judgments and understanding concepts.

  • Numbness or pain in parts of your body – You may become paralyzed on one side of your body, or lose control of certain muscles, such as those on one side of your face or one arm.

Most people who survive a stroke will have some type of disability. But many people are able to make significant improvements through rehabilitation. According to the National Stroke Association:

  • 10% of stroke survivors recover almost completely
  • 25% recover with minor impairments
  • 40% experience moderate-to-severe impairments that require special care
  • 10% require care in a nursing home or other long-term facility

For the best chance of improvement and regaining abilities, it is important that rehabilitation starts as soon as possible after a stroke.

Expert Stroke Care at The NeuroMedical Center

Stroke can be a debilitating and life-altering event. The NeuroMedical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana exists to make sure all individuals who experience stroke, or any neurological episode, receive the most timely treatments and highest quality of specialized care. From a state-of-the-art Neuro ICU, to the region’s most specialized Stroke Rehabilitation programs, to advanced telestroke services, The NeuroMedical Center provides the full range of world-class inpatient and outpatient stroke services. Our comprehensive team of stroke experts consists of neurologists, neurosurgeons, physiatrists, neuropsychologists, neuroradiologists, and physical, occupational, and speech therapists who remain on the leading edge of stroke care and recovery– and will be here for you when you need them the most.