A stroke, also known as a brain attack, results from diminished blood flow to the brain. The two main types are ischemic and hemorrhagic. Treatment options vary depending on stroke type, severity and location. Immediate medical attention is critical for minimizing temporary or permanent impairments.
• Ischemic strokes
Ischemic strokes are the most common. A reduction in blood flow restricts oxygen delivery to the brain. This usually occurs when fatty plaque buildup in the arteries causes blood clot formation. The clot blocks the artery or dislodges and moves toward the brain.
• Hemorrhagic strokes
Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a vessel in the brain ruptures. Blood accumulation in the surrounding tissues causes increased pressure and cell damage.
The following symptoms appear suddenly:
• Weakness or numbness occurs in the face or limbs on one side of the body.
• One or both eyes experience vision changes.
• An intense headache of unknown origin develops.
• Walking is impaired due to dizziness, imbalance or incoordination.
• Speech and comprehension difficulties arise.
• High blood pressure
High blood pressure is often considered the most preventable risk factor. Smoking and obesity are among its many causes and can significantly increase stroke risk.
• Heart disease
A defective heart valve or abnormal heartbeat can lead to blood clot formation and reduced blood flow. Other pre-existing heart conditions, including heart enlargement and coronary artery disease (CAD), have similar effects.
• High cholesterol
Poor diet and inactivity can elevate cholesterol levels. This leads to plaque buildup in the arteries that can limit blood flow, thus raising stroke risk.
• Prior stroke history and heredity
A personal or family history of stroke increases the likelihood of stroke occurrence.
African-Americans are at a higher risk of stroke compared to other races.
Medication may be administered to dissolve clots and improve blood flow following an ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke often requires medication to control bleeding. If given in a timely manner, these drugs can help reduce cell damage.
Angioplasty requires insertion of a catheter into the brain and implantation of a stent. This opens blocked vessels and prevents artery narrowing.
• Carotid endarterectomy
Carotid endarterectomy involves removal of plaque and blood clots from the carotid arteries in the neck. This can enhance blood flow and prevent subsequent strokes.
• Surgical clipping
Clamping the base of an aneurysm with a metal clip can prohibit blood flow to the area. It can also prevent aneurysm ruptures.