A stroke happens when blood can't get to a part of your brain causing brain cells to die. There are two types of stroke: ischemic (iss-skeem-ick) and hemorrhagic (heh-more-RA-jick). Hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery -- a blood vessel that supplies the brain -- breaks and bleeds. This can be caused by:
- An aneurysm, or a weak spot in the wall of an artery
- A birth defect called an arteriovenous malformation, or A-V-M, or by
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
Hemorrhagic stroke causes blood to leak into the brain. This keeps nearby brain cells from getting the oxygen and nutrients they need. Bleeding causes pressure to build up in surrounding tissues, causing irritation and swelling. All of these conditions can cause the cells in your brain to die.
When brain cells begin to die, certain symptoms may occur. These symptoms may start suddenly and are usually easy to spot. Depending on where the bleeding occurs, the symptoms may include:
- Drooping on one side of your face
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Slurred speech or trouble speaking
- Feeling or looking weak on one side of your body, and
- A severe headache with no known cause
If you or a loved one shows any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away. Stroke is a serious medical condition. The sooner you get treatment, the more likely you or your loved one will have a full recovery.
Certain things can make you more likely to have a stroke. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors can't be changed. For example, if you're African American, or you're a man, your risk of having a stroke is higher. You also are at higher risk of having a stroke if:
- Anyone in your family has had a stroke
- You are more than fifty-five years old
- You've had a stroke before, or
- You have certain genetic conditions
But you can change some of your risk factors. For example, smoking cigarettes can increase your risk for stroke. Other risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Peripheral artery disease, or
- Untreated atrial fibrillation, a condition in which your heart beats in an irregular pattern
If you are overweight or obese, or eat a lot of food high in saturated fat or salt, your risk for stroke goes up. Getting treatment for these conditions, and keeping them under control, can lower your chances of having a stroke.
If you are having symptoms of stroke, you'll need several medical tests. Your health care provider will start with a physical examination. He or she will likely recommend special imaging tests like a C-T or M-R-I scan. Certain blood tests may be done.
These test results will help your health care provider decide which treatment is right for your situation.
Your treatment will depend on the size and location of your stroke. If your stroke is very small, your health care provider may adjust your medications and watch you for a while.
You may need a procedure in which your health care provider places a special wire in your brain through a blood vessel in your leg, arm, or neck. The wire leaves behind a plug that helps stop the bleeding in your brain.
You may need a surgical procedure called a craniotomy to stop the bleeding. In a craniotomy, a small section of your skull is removed so that the surgeon can reach the hemorrhaging blood vessel and repair it.
Stroke can leave you with permanent disabilities. The faster you get treatment, the more likely you are to recover.
Things to Remember
Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in your brain.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking are risk factors that can put you at higher risk for stroke.
Get medical care right away if you suspect a stroke.
Stroke is one of the most common causes of death and disability in the United States. However, treatments can help you recover from a stroke, especially if you get help quickly.
What We Have Learned
If you notice half of your face drooping or have slurred speech, you should immediately go to the emergency room. True or False? The answer is true. Symptoms like these that come on suddenly are warning signs of stroke and need immediate medical attention.
Overweight and obesity are not risk factors for stroke. True or False? The answer is false. Overweight and obesity are both risk factors for stroke.