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A stroke is a very serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or “brain attack,” occurs when there isn’t enough blood supplying the brain. This starves the brain cells of necessary oxygen and nutrients, without which the brain cells begin to die. The longer the brain is deprived of blood supply, the more likely the person is to suffer permanent brain damage, long-term disability, or death. Stroke is a leading cause of permanent disability in adults.

A stroke can be fatal if not treated quickly, so please call an ambulance right away if you suspect you or someone you know is having a stroke, even if you are not sure what is happening.

Signs of a stroke include the face drooping on one side, difficulty communicating with or understanding others, trouble reading or writing, difficulty moving one or more limbs, numbness, and paralysis in one or more parts of the body (particularly down just one side).

The acronym “FAST” can help you to remember signs of a stroke:

  • F ace: a person who is having a stroke may appear as though one side of the face is drooping. One eye may appear lower than the other, the folds around the nose may appear flat on one side, or the person may have difficulty smiling evenly, moving his/her tongue, or puffing up his/her cheeks successfully.
  • A rms: a stroke can affect a person’s ability to move his/her arms and legs, particularly on one side of the body. Ask the person to raise both arms, then sit and raise both legs. If one side is weak, drooping, or unable to move, he/she could be having stroke.
  • S peech: communication can be affected by a stroke. A person who has difficulty speaking, understanding others, reading, or writing may be having a stroke. Spoken words may be garbled, nonsensical, out of order, or the person may have trouble putting words together.
  • T ime: lost time is lost brain tissue. A person who is having a stroke needs care right away. It is always better to be on the safe side whenever you suspect a stroke. Call an ambulance right away – don’t wait for any reason!

Even if symptoms go away, emergency care is still needed. When symptoms of a stroke resolve within 24 hours it is called a transient ischemic attack. A transient ischemic attack (TIA, or “mini stroke”) is a very serious condition that can signal a bigger stroke is about to occur.

There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.
  • An ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.
  • A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.

Most strokes are ischemic.

Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.

Treatment of a stroke occurs in a hospital, where the treatment team will make a diagnosis based upon brain imaging and symptoms. Medication and supportive care are the most common forms of treatment.

Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities. This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores. Rehabilitation teams made up of physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language therapists, social workers, and mental health professionals will be involved in helping a person to adapt to life after a stroke.

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Enrico Sartori Sartori - Tristan Honsinger Honsinger BaboonEnrico Sartori Sartori - Tristan Honsinger Honsinger BaboonEnrico Sartori Sartori - Tristan Honsinger Honsinger BaboonEnrico Sartori Sartori - Tristan Honsinger Honsinger Baboon