Everything You Need to Know About Stroke
A stroke occurs when blood, which carries oxygen to the brain, is blocked. It is a medical emergency because brain cells begin to die within a few minutes without oxygen.
Every year, nearly 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. (1) It’s the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Strokes can occur at any age, but stroke risk does increase as you get older.
There are two main types of stroke:
- Ischemic strokesare caused by blood clots.
- Hemorrhagic strokesare caused by bleeding in or around the brain.
Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all strokes. They happen when there's a blood clot that blocks blood flow to a part of the brain. There are two ways this can happen:
- A clot can form in a blood vessel of the neck or brain that has been narrowed by a buildup of plaque. Plaque is a combination of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that accumulate in the inner lining of the artery walls. This condition is often referred to as atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries."
- A clot can break off from a blood vessel somewhere else in the body and travel to the brain where it becomes stuck in one of the brain's tiny blood vessels. This is called embolism. ()
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into surrounding brain tissue. This puts too much pressure on blood cells in the surrounding tissue, cutting off their blood supply and causing damage.
An aneurysm — a weak spot in a blood vessel wall that balloons outward — can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, as can a tangle of malformed blood vessels called an arteriovenous malformation.
Chronic high blood pressure may also weaken spots in the artery wall, making these spots more prone to rupture.
About 13 percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic strokes. ()
What Is a Mini-Stroke?
A TIA, or transient ischemic attack, can be secondary to a temporary blockage caused by a blood clot.
TIA is sometimes referred to as "mini-stroke" or "warning stroke," because it can be a warning sign of a future stroke.
More than a third of people who have a TIA will have a major stroke within a year if the condition is not treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Video: Minor stroke captured on video: Watch as it happens
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