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

Take control of rising cholesterol at menopause

High cholesterol can become a problem for some women after menopause. Managing the condition by making lifestyle changes and in some cases by taking medications can help prevent heart attack and stroke in many instances. Even small changes, such as losing a small amount of weight and adding a few 15-minute exercise intervals each day can help make a big difference in your health over time. (Locked) More »

The high cost of a poor diet

What people choose to eat has a big impact on their cardiovascular health. The dietary habits of the nation as a whole also have a major effect on the country’s economic health. About 45% of the costs associated with heart disease, stroke, and diabetes is related to unhealthy diets. The dietary habits that appear to have the biggest effect are not eating enough nuts, seeds, and seafood omega-3 fatty acids. Among foods to avoid, sugary beverages and processed meats seem to contribute the most to higher costs. Each year, unhealthy diets cost the United States an average of about $300 per person in medical costs, which translates to $50 billion nationwide. (Locked) More »

How does marijuana affect the heart?

An estimated two million people in the United States with cardiovascular disease currently use or have used marijuana. Converging (yet limited) evidence suggests the drug may be harmful to the heart. Marijuana can cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise. Heart attack risk also appears to rise in the hour after smoking marijuana, and the drug has also been linked to an increased likelihood of atrial fibrillation and stroke. (Locked) More »

Keeping tabs on triglycerides

Lowering LDL cholesterol levels is an important way to reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. But people also should monitor their triglycerides—the most common type of fat in the body. In some cases, medications help lower high levels, but lifestyle changes are the preferred method, such as eating healthier carbohydrates, curbing alcohol, losing weight, and increasing exercise. (Locked) More »

Stroke Overview

A stroke is a brain injury that occurs because the brain's blood supply is interrupted. The brain's blood supply can be disrupted for different reasons. Doctors generally classify strokes into three categories, depending on the cause: Hemorrhagic stroke — Bleeding (hemorrhage) causes this type of stroke. Bleeding can occur within the brain or between the brain and the skull. When bleeding occurs, small blood vessels near the hemorrhage tighten in a spasm. As a result, some brain areas get too little blood flow. (Locked) More »

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 »