What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain is suddenly interrupted. There are two types of stroke: 1) Ischemic stroke which is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) in a brain artery, or by a blood clot which blocks blood flow in a brain artery; or 2) Hemorrhagic stroke which is caused by a sudden rupture of an artery leading to the brain. When blood flow ceases to the brain, the brain receives no oxygen. This can cause temporary or permanent brain damage, and with time, can result in death.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke?

A stroke can cause several different symptoms. Do not ignore them…every second counts. Stroke, treated early, can increase your chance of survival and diminish the likelihood of permanent brain damage.

Be aware of the following symptoms and signs of stroke:

  • Difficulty feeling or moving on one side of the body
  • Slurring or trouble speaking
  • Brief episode of a weakness of an arm or leg
  • Momentary loss of vision
  • Darkening of the vision in one eye
  • A shade or curtain coming down over one eye
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Faint (syncope) or feeling faint

Do not ignore the warning signs of a stroke. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1 to get to emergency hospital care as quickly as possible.

How is a stroke detected?

A stroke is usually detected too late…that is, when a patient reaches the emergency room. However, if you experience early symptoms of a stroke, there are imaging tests that can determine if you are having a stroke or need treatment to prevent one.

Stroke is a progressive disease caused by several cardiovascular risk factors. These include family history of stroke, old age, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, lack of exercise, and stress. We invite you to take a simple, free risk assessment to evaluate your own risk factors.

If you are at risk for stroke (e.g. have multiple risk factors), talk to your physician. He or she can perform any of the following imaging tests to detect cardiovascular disease early and prevent a stroke. These imaging studies include:

  • Carotid duplex scan (ultrasound)
  • Computed topography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

What are the treatment options for a stroke?

The best medicine for treatment of stroke is prevention. This means making lifestyle changes to reduce your cardiovascular risk factors. A stroke occurs when fatty deposits (plaque) build up inside the arteries leading to your brain. This is called peripheral vascular disease, and is progressive--meaning the plaque accumulates over time. But if you modify your risk factors that contribute to peripheral vascular disease (and coronary artery disease as well), you can maintain, and in some cases, reverse the effects of the disease.

Should you or someone you know have a stroke, a treatment plan will be developed specific to the severity of your condition. Your doctor will monitor your health carefully to prevent further brain damage. Then your doctor may recommend therapy to deal with consequences of stroke. This may include physical, speech and occupational therapy.