A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted or cut-off. When this happens, the affected area of the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients, which may cause cells in the brain to die. A stroke may cause temporary or permanent muscle weakness and/or loss of muscle control. The severity of a stroke varies greatly. There are different types including ischemic stroke (most common), hemorrhagic stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIA or mini-strokes).
Common symptoms of a stroke include trouble speaking or understanding, paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, headache, and trouble walking. To check for a stroke remember FAST: Face, Arms, Speech, and Time. Face: ask the person to smile - does one side of their face droop? Arms: ask the person to raise their arms in the air – can they raise both arms and keep them raised? Speech: ask the person to repeat a simple phrase back to you – is their speech slurred? Time: if any or all of these symptoms are shown, then seek medical attention immediately.
The main risk factors for a stroke include being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, overuse of drugs and/or alcohol, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Having a family history of stroke, being 55 years or older, being male, or being African American also increases your risk. Causes of strokes depend on the type of stroke.
In order to diagnose a stroke, doctors will perform a physical exam and may use blood tests, CT scans, MRI studies, and other tests. Emergency treatment will depend on the type of stroke. Follow up treatment may include physical, occupational and speech therapy. Lowering your risk factors may help prevent future strokes. If you or a loved one had a stroke, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also available as good sources of information.