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What is Stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is disrupted. In just a few minutes after stroke occurs, brains cells begin to die and can lead to long-term damage. 

There are two main types of stroke:

 Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a vital blood vessel to the brain. The most common causes of ischemic stroke are the gradual buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels of the head and neck (thrombosis) and blood clots in the heart (embolism).

Hemorrhagic: Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. When the artery bleeds into the brain, pressure increases within the skull, causing swelling of brain tissue and damage to brain cells. When blood vessels within the brain burst, it is called an intracerebral hemorrhage; when the bleeding occurs in the space between the brain and the membranes that cover the brain, it is called subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Stroke-like symptoms also can occur when blood flow to part of the brain stops for a short period of time, what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Symptoms can last for less than 24 hours before disappearing. These attacks, or "mini strokes," do not cause permanent brain damage but are a warning sign that stroke could occur in the future.

Know the Symptoms of Stroke

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, but knowing the warning signs of stroke can lead to more responsive care, resulting in a quicker recovery. There are more 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S. today.

When stroke occurs, an individual may experience sudden difficulties with common functions. The most common symptoms of stroke include:

  • Confusion or difficulty understanding 
  • Difficulty speaking 
  • Dizziness or problems with balance or coordination 
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Problems with movement or walking 
  • Seizure 
  • Severe headaches with no other known cause 
  • Vision problems, such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes 
  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body  

Less common signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden nausea, vomiting, or fever not caused by a viral illness 
  • Brief loss or change of consciousness, such as fainting, confusion, seizures, or coma