Understanding Stroke

If you or a loved one is at risk of having a stroke, you probably have a lot of questions and want to learn as much as possible about what to expect. At CHI Franciscan Health, we offer expert emergency stroke care in all of our hospitals’ Emergency departments. Our highly skilled stroke teams are specially trained to stop — or even reverse — the effects of stroke.

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when blood flow to any part of the brain stops. If blood flow is cut off for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get nutrients and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing death or serious lasting damage. The longer the time that the brain is cut off from oxygen, the more severe the damage.

A stroke can have different effects on your body, depending on where the stroke occurred in your brain. Some common lasting effects are:

  • Difficulty naming objects
  • Difficulty reading and writing
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding others
  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Loss of sensation or complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • Muscle spasms

What are the symptoms and signs of a stroke?

Every second counts when someone is having a stroke. Immediate medical treatment can help minimize any brain damage and prevent lasting effects.

Fast Time 2016.05.10

Know the signs of a stroke: Think FAST

  • Facial drooping
  • Arm that drifts or won’t lift
  • Slurring or difficulty speaking
  • Time to call 911. Also, note the Time the symptoms start so you can tell the paramedic.

If you or someone else is experiencing any of these signs, don’t wait! Call 911 immediately.

What causes a stroke?

The two major types of stroke are:

  • Ischemic stroke, which occurs when there’s a blockage or blood clot in a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. The blockage may be caused by plaque, a sticky substance that can clog arteries.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a weak blood vessel bulges (aneurysm) and breaks, causing blood to leak out into the surrounding brain tissue.

What is a transient ischemic stroke (TIA)?

A TIA occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes temporarily blocked. A TIA can cause some of the same signs and symptoms as a stroke. But these signs last only a few minutes to a couple of hours.

A TIA doesn’t cause permanent brain damage, but it shouldn’t be ignored. If someone has symptoms or signs of a TIA or stroke, call 911 immediately. Emergency treatment during a stroke can save your life and improve the chances for a good recovery.

A TIA can be a warning sign of a major stroke to come. If you have had a TIA, consult your physician to find out what you can do to prevent stroke.

Who’s at risk for stroke?

A risk factor is anything that can increase your chances of having a stroke. Some risk factors are in your control, and others aren’t. Risk factors that you can’t control include:

  • Being age 55 or over
  • Being male
  • Being African-American
  • Have a family or personal medical history of stroke or TIA

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s very important to learn about lifestyle changes and medical interventions to prevent a stroke. Talk to your physician to find out your best options.

Some risk factors that you can control include:

The good news is that you can minimize these risk factors by making healthy lifestyle changes. View our classes and events to see some helpful resources, many of which are free.

In addition, some medical conditions increase your risk of stroke, including:

Find a doctor

Prevention is the best way to stay healthy. Work with your primary care doctor to make sure you’re up to date on health screenings and managing any chronic conditions well. Don’t have a primary care doctor? Find a doctor online or call 888-825-3227 for a referral.