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

Cancer survivors: A higher risk of heart problems?

Cancer survivors should be aware that cancer and its treatments—including newer immune-based therapies—can compromise cardiovascular health. Risk calculators to estimate the 10-year odds of having a heart attack or stroke may underestimate risk in people who’ve received treatment for cancer. Cancer survivors should stay vigilant for any new heart-related symptoms during and after treatment. The most common include shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, and a rapid, irregular heartbeat. (Locked) More »

Fight chronic inflammation and cholesterol to protect your heart

High cholesterol and chronic inflammation together raise the risk for heart attacks, strokes, and related problems. Several approaches can fight both at the same time. One is eating a heart-healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean proteins (fish and poultry), low-fat dairy foods, and olive oil. Another is controlling weight, since fat tissue triggers chronic inflammation. Other approaches include increasing physical activity and addressing sleep and stress issues. (Locked) More »

Conquer your fear of dietary fat

For decades, high intake of fat was thought to cause weight gain, heart disease, and maybe even cancer. The solution? Go low-fat, which often meant consuming more carbs and more sugar. But nutritionists now suggest people actually need adequate amounts of "good" unsaturated fat, and less "bad" saturated fat, for optimal health. Following popular heart-healthy diets, like the Mediterranean and MIND diets, and making simple dietary changes can help people get adequate amounts of good fats. (Locked) More »

How much will fried foods harm your heart?

A study published online Jan. 18, 2021, by the journal Heart found that people who ate the most fried foods each week were 28% more likely to have heart problems, compared with people who ate the least. More »

A little-known factor that boosts heart attack risk

About 20% of people have high levels of lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), a fatty particle linked to premature heart disease. People who should consider getting an Lp(a) test include those with a family history of early heart disease; people with heart disease who have normal (untreated) levels of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides; and close relatives of people with high Lp(a). Studies of new drugs to lower Lp(a) are under way, with results expected in a few years. (Locked) More »

Understanding "blood thinners"

So-called blood thinners actually don’t "thin" blood. They are anti-clotting drugs that protect high-risk people from developing potentially dangerous blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. People who may benefit from them include those who have atrial fibrillation or a stent in a blood vessel, or who are immobile after surgery. (Locked) More »