What is a stroke?
A stroke, sometimes called a "brain attack," occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. When a stroke occurs, brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function.
What causes a stroke?
Strokes can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or "mini stroke," is caused by a temporary clot and is a warning sign for a future stroke.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
Because a stroke injures the brain, you may not realize that you are having one. To a bystander, someone having a stroke may just look unaware or confused. Stroke victims have the best chance if someone around them recognizes the symptoms and acts quickly.
The symptoms of a stroke are distinct because they happen quickly:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Ischemic strokes, the most common type of strokes, can be treated with a drug called t-PA that dissolves blood clots obstructing blood flow to the brain.
The window of opportunity to start treating stroke patients is three hours, but to be evaluated and receive treatment, patients need to get to the hospital within 60 minutes.
What should a bystander do?
If you believe someone is having a stroke call 911 immediately.
Preventing a stroke means managing your modifiable risk factors.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Stay active
- Manage your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Quit tobacco
- Get an adequate amount of sleep
Stroke Recovery and Support
Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and can affect the entire body. The effects range from mild to severe and can include paralysis, problems with thinking, speaking and emotions. Patients may also experience pain or numbness after a stroke.
Amy LaMere, RN, BSN, CPHQ
Stroke and Sepsis Coordinator, UP Health System - Marquette