A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blockage or burst blood vessel. Without oxygen from the blood, damage to the brain tissue begins right away. Cells can die within minutes and are never regenerated. Among Americans, stroke is a leading cause of disability, and is the 3rd leading cause of death.

There are three main types of stroke, with varying degrees of seriousness:

Ischemic Strokes account for about 87% of all strokes. They occur when a clot or small piece of plaque breaks off inside an artery, then travels until getting lodged in a small vessel. A region of the brain is then starved of oxygen, which kills brain cells and can cause short or long-term results.

Transient Ischemic Strokes (TSA) are sometimes called “mini-strokes.” They are caused by a temporary blockage which causes the same symptoms as more serious types of stroke, but the blockage works itself free and blood starts flowing again. Symptoms often are gone within 24 hours with no long-term effects, but TSA could be a sign that more serious strokes could occur down the road.

Hemorrhagic Strokes are the most serious type of stroke, and are caused when a blood vessel bursts inside the brain. Not only does part of the brain die for lack of oxygen, but as blood flows unrestricted into the brain it causes pressure to build up which can damage other areas. Only about 15% of strokes are hemorrhagic, but they cause about 40% of all stroke deaths.

This simple FAST acronym helps you remember the warning signs of a stroke, so if you or someone else has one of these signs, seek immediate medical help:

  • F – Face Drooping: If one side of the face is drooping or numb, or If the person can’t smile, or if one side of the smile is uneven it could be the sign of a stroke.
  • A – Arm Weakness: Someone having a stroke may not be able to completely raise both arms or hold them both above the head. One arm may be numb or weak.
  • S – Speech Difficulty: A person having a stroke may not be able to speak clearly or even at all.
  • T – Time to Call 911: If you or someone else has just one of these symptoms – even if the symptom goes away – you must seek immediate medical attention. Every second counts because brain cells are dying, and the sooner you get help the less damage there will be. No stroke victim has every symptom, but others signs include severe headache, confusion, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, impaired vision, and numbness on one side of the face or body.

Even though doctors often recommend giving aspirin to someone having a heart attack, it should not be given to someone experiencing stroke symptoms because it thins the blood which can make a hemorrhagic stroke even more serious.

If you or a loved one have suffered a stroke, the medical professionals at Complete Brain Center have a great deal of experience helping stroke victims recover and prevent later strokes.

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