Stroke

Brain cells need a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients. They are delivered by a network of blood vessels that reach every part of the brain. When something cuts off that supply, brain cells downstream begin to die. The injury that follows is called a stroke.

Most strokes strike when a blood clot becomes lodged in one of the brain's arteries, blocking blood flow. In some cases, the clot forms inside the artery, usually because a cholesterol-filled plaque inside the artery breaks open. This is called a thrombotic stroke. In other cases, a blood clot or a solid mass of debris that originates elsewhere travels to the brain, where it blocks a brain artery. This is called an embolic stroke. A third type of stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

Since different areas of the brain are responsible for different functions, symptoms of stroke vary. They can be changes in sensation, movement, sight, speech, balance, and coordination. Sometimes a stroke is preceded by one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). These are brief episodes of stroke-like symptoms that last for a few minutes — or possibly up to 24 hours — but that go away on their own.

If you think that you, or someone you are with, is having a stroke, call 911 right away. The sooner you call, the sooner treatment can begin — "time is brain," as emergency room doctors say. The type of treatment depends on the type of stroke that has occurred. If the brain's blood supply is restored quickly and completely, a full recovery with little or no disability is possible. The more widespread the damage, and the greater delay of treatment, the more severe and long-lasting the damage.

Recovery after a stroke depends on how well healthy areas of the brain take over duties that had been performed by the damaged brain tissue. To some extent, especially in children and young adults, recovery is possible because of the brain's ability to compensate for damage in one area by working harder in another — by relying on alternate wiring for some functions or by rewiring around the injured site. When such rewiring isn't possible, rehabilitation techniques can help the brain recover function.

Stroke Articles

Don’t stress about heart health

When stress becomes more frequent or lingers—what’s known as chronic stress—it can cause excessive strain throughout the body and lead to higher inflammation, higher blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and sleep disturbances—all factors that contribute to a higher risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. By practicing certain behaviors, people can train their brain and body not to let chronic stress control them. (Locked) More »

Is nighttime the right time for blood pressure drugs?

Taking blood pressure drugs before bed may lower the risk of serious heart-related problems more than taking the drugs in the morning. Bedtime dosing lowers blood pressure in the early morning, when the risk of heart attack and stroke is highest. People ages 55 and older (who are less likely to experience a decrease in blood pressure at night) may gain the most benefit from nighttime blood pressure dosing. Some blood pressure drugs cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure soon after they’re taken, so doctors advise people to take them at night to avoid falls. Other drugs have a sedating effects, which can help people fall asleep. (Locked) More »

Low LDL and stroke: A closer look

Bleeding strokes, which account for about 13% of strokes, may be more common among the small percentage of people who have naturally low levels of LDL cholesterol, which are usually due to genetics, diet, or illness. But these findings are not relevant to people who take statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs to lower their LDL. Low LDL helps prevent heart attacks and ischemic strokes, which are far more common than bleeding strokes. (Locked) More »

Hot flashes and heart health

Results of a recent study suggest a link between frequent and persistent hot flashes and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. However, even among women who had more hot flashes, the overall odds of having a heart-related event was still low. Since most women experience hot flashes around the time of menopause, more research is needed to better define the frequency and severity of hot flashes that would warrant extra attention to cardiovascular risk. (Locked) More »

Who needs aspirin?

Aspirin is prescribed to help protect people with cardiovascular disease against heart attacks and strokes. Yet, because aspirin is so readily available and familiar, many people who don’t need it take it on their own. This can expose them to potentially dangerous side effects, like severe bleeding, and can do more harm than good. (Locked) More »

A major change for daily aspirin therapy

In March 2019, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommended against the routine use of low-dose (81-mg) aspirin in people older than 70 who do not have existing heart disease and haven’t had a stroke, or in people of any age who have an increased risk for bleeding (from a peptic ulcer, for example, with sores on the stomach lining that can bleed). The recommendations were based on three large studies. (Locked) More »

Don't be afraid of statins

While statin therapy helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, many people may still resist them because they fear side effects and do not understand how the drugs work. Yet, for many people, statins are the best way to protect against heart attack and stroke, and may provide additional benefits like reducing the risk of blood clots and protecting against Alzheimer’s. (Locked) More »