What is a stroke?
Stroke is sometimes called a brain attack, because it helps people remember what a stroke really is. It is part of the brain dying.
Unfortunately, the brain is not very good at healing itself, and the nerve cells, or neurons, do not grow back or regenerate. All that is left is a scar. There is no time to lose because neurons start dying within several minutes of losing blood.
Ischemic strokes, which account for 80-85% of all strokes, are caused by blocked arteries. Arteries can become blocked for three main reasons:
- There can be a partially blocked artery somewhere else in the body, such as the neck, and part of that blockage can break off and travel to the brain causing a stroke.
- Arteries in the brain can slowly get more and more blocked over time with cholesterol deposits, and eventually just completely close.
- A blockage can occur when a blood clot from the heart comes loose and travels to the brain. Certain heart conditions commonly cause this to happen.
About 15-20% of strokes are caused by bleeding. These are called hemorrhagic strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes can be more dangerous than ischemic strokes, but sometimes the symptoms can be the same. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by weak arteries bursting under high pressure. Sometimes there are aneurysms, balloon-like pouches, on the arteries that burst. Hemorrhagic strokes require absolute immediate attention!
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
TIAs, the so-called mini-strokes, are episodes that usually last only several minutes but are still caused by the same thing that causes ischemic strokes -- loss of blood flow to the brain. TIAs are still dangerous and can be considered the ticking of a time-bomb. At least one out of every 10 times, people who have had a TIA will have a stroke within the next day. Since our brains are not very good at healing themselves, it is very important to get immediate medical attention before the stroke happens, which means getting to the emergency room as fast as possible because the clock may be running out.
How do you tell if someone is having a stroke?