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

Does alcohol help protect the brain?

An observational study published online June 29, 2020, by Jama Network Open found a potential link between low-to-moderate alcohol drinking in middle age and better cognitive skills in older age. More »

FDA approves broader use of clot-prevention drug

Ticagrelor (Brilinta), a drug that prevents dangerous blood clots, was granted an expanded approval by the FDA. Doctors can now prescribe the drug in people at high risk of a heart attack as well as those who have already had one. More »

Midlife isn’t too late for stroke prevention

Strokes can be prevented through lifestyle changes, such as exercising more, quitting smoking, losing weight, or eating a healthy diet, even if changes aren’t made until midlife, according to a study by Harvard researchers. Compared with women who didn’t make beneficial lifestyle changes, women who quit smoking, lost weight, or exercised for 30 minutes or more each day had an estimated 25% reduction in stroke risk, and women who ate a healthier diet had an estimated 23% reduction in risk. (Locked) More »

Are video calls a loneliness cure?

Doctors say connecting with loved ones and friends via video calls may help people feel less lonely and isolated. Video calls are made using applications ("apps") on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. These apps enable users to reach people anywhere in the world. As of the spring of 2020, apps commonly used to make video calls included FaceTime, Google Duo, Snapchat, Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp. Video calls can also be used to engage in book clubs, support groups, or exercise instruction. (Locked) More »

Make up your mind

Struggling with making decisions is more likely as people age and experience natural cognitive decline. This can make it harder to choose the right course of action, especially if there are multiple options. There are steps people can take to improve decision making, such as narrowing down choices, gathering only basic information, and consulting with friends and family. (Locked) More »

The questions about fish oil supplements

Some research says taking a daily fish oil supplement can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while other studies say the evidence remains thin. While fish oil is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids (essential nutrients that the body cannot make on its own),  taking an over-the-counter fish oil supplement probably provides no extra heart benefit beyond a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of omega-3-rich fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. (Locked) More »