What is Stroke?

A stroke is an attack on the brain. It occurs when cells in the brain don’t receive enough blood. Generally, blockage or damage in an artery causes an interruption in the flow of blood to the brain. The lack of blood deprives brain cells of oxygen and they die.

There are two kinds of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

An ischemic stroke occurs when fatty build-up on an artery wall becomes too great and clogs the flow of blood. This is the most common cause of stroke, accounting for 80 percent of all stroke-related incidents.

Some stroke-like symptoms may precede ischemic strokes by months, known as transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). People who’ve experienced TIAs commonly describe having lost eyesight for 10 to 20 minutes before their vision returns.

A ruptured artery inside the brain or burst aneurysm at the base of the brain causes hemorrhagic strokes. When it occurs, patients tend to suffer headaches, nausea and vomiting, neck stiffness, seizures and general feelings of weakness. These strokes usually occur during physical activity and can happen suddenly.

Once someone suffers a stroke, every second is critical to their care and survival. That’s why healthcare professionals treat stroke with the same urgency as a heart attack.

Learn to Act F.A.S.T

If you think someone near you is having a stroke, every second counts. Know the warning signs, identify stoke and CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY. The acronym F.A.S.T. can help you identify possible strokes:

Smile. Does one side of the face droop? Can you see the same number of teeth on each side of the face?
Hold up both arms for 10 seconds. Does one drift downward?
Repeat a simple sentence. Is the speech slurred or strange? Can you understand the person?
If these signs are present, every second counts. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

Help Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Find out if you have heart disease, especially an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation (AF), and get treatment
  • Find out if you have diabetes and get treatment
  • Don't smoke
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Limit your alcohol use
  • Control your weight

Podcast: Stroke Signs and Symptoms

In this segment, Barbara Buesch, the Stroke Program Coordinator at Temecula Valley Hospital, shares the common signs and symptoms of stroke, and how to use the FAST acronym to determine if you or a loved one has had a stroke.