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A stroke is a “brain attack”: It occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off, causing death or brain damage. Often referred to as a disease, a stroke is really the result of cardiovascular disease. There are basically two different kinds of strokes: Ischemic strokes, which account for 88 percent of all strokes, are caused by clots in the artery; hemorrhagic (or bleeding) strokes are caused by ruptured blood vessels.
A stroke is a dreadful event because if any part of the brain doesn’t get what it needs in the way of oxygen or nutrients, it begins to starve to death – immediately. And the area of the body being served by that part of the brain suffers. If, for example, the speech area of the brain is deprived of blood, then the person develops speech problems. If the stroke occurs toward the back of the brain, then some disability involving vision is likely to result. A serious stroke frequently puts the victim into a long-term care facility, a milder stroke may require time and therapy before the person can resume even the most ordinary activities. Know the warning signs of stroke. If you or someone you know show signs of a stroke, then call 911 or your hospital emergency immediately.
If you suspect a stroke, you can do a quick test by asking the person if he/she can:
Your doctor may be able to make a preliminary diagnosis based on your symptoms, a physical and neurological examination, and your medical history, but to be sure, your doctor will also probably run some tests, which may include at least one of the following:
Brain damage begins from the moment the stroke occurs so the sooner the victim receives medical treatment the better. For full recovery from an ischemic stroke, special medications should be taken within 3 hours. Most people who’ve had a stroke require some kind of rehabilitation to help in their recovery. Happily, the brain can remodel and reorganize itself after a stroke, but it needs help. Almost a quarter of stroke survivors experience another stroke within 5 years and the risk of severe disability and death increases with each stroke. Proper medical management, which may include anti-stroke medication such as antiplatelet agents (e.g. Aspirin®), and establishing healthy changes to your lifestyle can reduce the risk of a recurrent stroke.
The same things that cause a stroke can also cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA)-plus the symptoms for both are the same. What distinguishes a TIA from a stroke is that the obstruction of blood flow is only temporary and the effects last less than 24 hours, sometimes less than 30 minutes. Although a TIA causes no permanent damage to the brain, it is a warning sign that a stroke may occur. Recent findings indicate that almost 20 percent of people who have a TIA or minor stroke, go on to have a major stroke within 3 months. You could say that having a TIA gives that person the chance to reduce his or her risk of a stroke.
While you can’t change certain things about yourself, such as family history, there are some things you can do to prevent yourself from having a stroke:
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada