Just as a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the blockage of blood and oxygen to the heart, a stroke (or brain attack) affects the arteries leading to and within the brain.
According to the CDC, stroke is the fifth highest cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the U.S. The American Stroke Association reports nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year and one out of four people who experience stroke has a recurrence.
There are three different types of strokes:
- Ischemic: When the blood flow is blocked by a clot. The primary clot-forming culprit is caused by the fatty deposits lining the vessel walls, medically known as atherosclerosis. These fatty deposits can cause two types of obstruction: a blood clot, which develops at the clogged part of the vessel (thrombosis); and a clot that forms at another location in the body, usually the heart and large arteries of the upper chest, which breaks loose and travels into the smaller vessels in the brain where it gets stuck and blocks blood flow (embolism). Ischemic stroke accounts for more than 80% of all strokes.
- Hemorrhagic: When a blood vessel ruptures and blood flow to a portion of the brain is interrupted. Hemorrhagic strokes result from a weakened vessel that ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain. The blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue. Ruptured vessels can occur inside the brain or in the space between the brain and the tissue covering the brain. Approximately 13% of all strokes are hemorrhagic.
- TIA (transient ischemic attack): Caused by a temporary clot. Often labeled a mini-stroke, a TIA is more accurately characterized as a warning stroke that a bigger stroke may just be around the corner. About one in three people who have a TIA will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year of the TIA. Most TIAs last less than five minutes. Symptoms may include weakness, numbness or paralysis in the face, arm or leg; slurred or garbled speech; difficulty understanding speech; blindness in one or both eyes; dizziness or loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headache with no cause. Symptoms may happen once or be reoccurring.
Think F-A-S-T; Act FAST
Immediate action can help prevent brain damage and long-term disability. Just think F-A-S-T:
F: Facial drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Slurred speech or difficulty swallowing
T: Time to call 911
Other possible signs may include weakness, paralysis, numbness, pins and needles sensation of any part of the body; loss of balance, coordination or trouble walking; blurred vision or trouble seeing in one or both eyes; dizziness; severe headache unlike past headaches; memory loss; and behavioral changes.
Act FAST if you see someone who may be having these symptoms – call 911 immediately.
Stroke Rehabilitation in Northern Arizona
The Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff is nationally recognized and certified to provide state-of-the-art quality care and rehabilitation for stroke suffers and those recovering from disabling diseases or injuries, such as stroke, brain, spinal cord and orthopedic injuries.
Richard Holt, D.O., is the medical director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona.