A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.
What Happens During a Stroke
If something happens to block the flow of blood, brain cells start to die within minutes because they can’t get oxygen. This causes a stroke.
There are two types of stroke:
An ischemic stroke occurs when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels to the brain. Fatty deposits called plaque can also cause blockages by building up in the blood vessels.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. Blood builds up and damages surrounding brain tissue.
Both types of stroke damage brain cells. Symptoms of that damage start to show in the parts of the body controlled by those brain cells.
Signs of Stroke in Men and Women
Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.
Acting F.A.S.T. Is Key for Stroke
Acting F.A.S.T. can help stroke patients get the treatments they desperately need. The stroke treatments that work best are available only if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within 3 hours of the first symptoms. Stroke patients may not be eligible for these if they don’t arrive at the hospital in time.
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following simple test:
F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.
Note the time when any symptoms first appear. This information helps health care providers determine the best treatment for each person. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.
What to Expect After a Stroke
If you have had a stroke, you can make great progress in regaining your independence. However, some problems may continue:
Paralysis (inability to move some parts of the body), weakness, or both on one side of the body.
Trouble with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory.
Problems understanding or forming speech.
Trouble controlling or expressing emotions.
Numbness or strange sensations.
Pain in the hands and feet that worsens with movement and temperature changes.
Trouble with chewing and swallowing.
Problems with bladder and bowel control.
Rehab can include working with speech, physical, and occupational therapists.
Speech therapy helps people who have problems producing or understanding speech.
Physical therapy uses exercises to help you relearn movement and coordination skills you may have lost because of the stroke.
Occupational therapy focuses on improving daily activities, such as eating, drinking, dressing, bathing, reading, and writing.
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