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About Strokes

Learn more about strokes:

Types of Strokes

Ischemic strokes are about 80 percent of all strokes. The word ischemic refers to a lack of blood supply to an area of the brain that results in some of the cells dying. This happens when blood vessels to the brain become narrow or clogged, cutting off blood flow to the brain cells.

Hemorrhagic strokes make up about 20 percent of all strokes and occur when an artery in the brain leaks or breaks (ruptures).

Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA) are sometimes called “warning strokes.” A TIA occurs when blood flow to a certain area of the brain briefly stops. The person has the same signs of a stroke, but the signs go away completely. The difference between a stroke and a TIA is that the TIA is a warning sign. It never results in permanent damage and because of that it can never be seen on a CT scan or an MRI scan.

Signs of a stroke should never be ignored. Call 911.  

Risk Factors

The best way to prevent a stroke is identifying what factors increase your risk for having a stroke. There are two types of risk factors, those you can control and those you cannot control.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

  • Age - Strokes can occur at any age, but two-thirds of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65
  • Gender - The incidence of stroke is slightly higher for men
  • Race - African Americans and Hispanics have a greater risk for stroke than other races
  • Family History - People who have a parent or sibling who have had a stroke are at a greater risk
  • Personal History of Diabetes – Having diabetes triples a person’s risk for having a stroke

Controllable Risk Factors

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease - especially atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat
  • High Cholesterol
  • Previous Stroke or TIA
  • Smoking
  • Excessive Alcohol Intake
  • Excess Weight
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Illicit Drug Use - amphetamines, cocaine
  • Carotid Stenosis - The carotid arteries on either side of the neck can collect plaque and interrupt blood flow to the brain

Other Risk Factors

  • Blood Abnormalities - Sickle Cell, Leukemia, High Homocysteine, Polycythemia and others
  • Infectious Diseases - TB, Syphilis, Endocarditis, HIV and others
  • Inflammatory Diseases - Lupus, Vasculitis
  • High-dose Estrogen - especially with cigarette smoking, hypertension and migraine
  • Sleep Apnea – Patients who snore may have increased risk for future strokes and heart attacks
  • How to Reduce Stroke Risk

How to recognize a stroke

Just remember to think FAST

The sooner a person arrives to the emergency room, the sooner treatment can begin and the better the chance for a successful recovery.

Face

  • Ask the person to smile.
  • Does one side of the face droop?

Arm

  • Ask the person to hold both arms up evenly.
  • Does one arm drift downward?

Speech

  • Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Are their words slurred or mixed up?

Time

  • If the person shows any of these signs, call 911 right away.

The Effects of a Stroke

Most strokes get better with time. How much time and how much better depends on each patient. What you will be able to do or not do depends on the area of the brain where your stroke occurred.

The brain is divided into four major parts:

  • the right side (hemisphere)
  • the left side (hemisphere)
  • the cerebellum
  • the brain stem
  • Generally speaking, the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body.

Left Side of the Brain

  • weakness or not being able to move the right side of the body
  • problems speaking
  • problems thinking clearly
  • confusion between left and right
  • both eyes can’t see things on the right
  • slow, cautious behavior

Right Side of the Brain

  • weakness or not being able to move (paralysis) on the left side of the body
  • both eyes can’t see things on the left
  • not aware of the left side of the body
  • loss of feeling on the left side of the body
  • quick actions, without thinking

Cerebellum

  • lack of coordination
  • loss of balance
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting

Brain Stem

  • coma
  • unstable vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, breathing)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • can’t move the body on both sides
  • dizziness
  • uncoordinated
  • problems swallowing
  • slurred speech
  • double vision

Other Effects

  • Changes in emotions and mood
  • Memory problems
  • Depression 
  • Sexual activity

Treatment

The more of these risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have a stroke. Some of these risk factors can be treated or controlled, such as high blood pressure and smoking. Other risk factors, such as age and gender, can’t be controlled. That is why is it important to talk to a healthcare professional about ways to reduce your risk of a stroke.

The experts at Summa Health System can help. Our Center for Stroke Care, located at Akron City Hospital, has been recognized five consecutive years by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association with their Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.

For more information about controlling your risk factors or questions concerning stroke, contact us at (855) 345-4677.