Stroke Information: The Basics Image

Strokes, or brain attacks, are the third leading cause of death in the Western world: only heart disease and cancer have higher mortality rates. Stroke damage can affect mental, physical, and emotional functioning. In fact, survivors of strokes often lose their independence, due to the disabling effects of the condition. Stroke is the second most common cause of neurologic disability, ranking only behind Alzheimer’s disease.

This site provides general stroke information, including the causes, types, diagnosis, and treatment of stroke. Recognizing and detecting stroke symptoms quickly is essential; with prompt treatment brain cell damage can be minimized.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a form of cerebrovascular disease: disease caused by circulation problems and obstructed blood flow in the brain. When blood flow is compromised, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. Circulation in the vessels of the brain may be restricted by blood clots, bleeding in the brain, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

Stroke Symptoms: Rapid Onset

When blood flow is impaired, stroke symptoms develop rapidly. This distinguishes strokes from more progressive brain diseases, such as dementia and brain tumors.

Ischemic Stroke, Atherosclerosis, and Heart Disease

Ischemic stroke is caused by obstructed blood flow, often due to atherosclerosis, the same process that narrows arteries and causes heart disease. More information about this type of stroke can be found on the ischemic stroke page.

Hemorrhagic Stroke and Hypertension

Bleeding from ruptured blood vessels causes hemorrhagic strokes. When blood vessels rupture, blood spills into the tissue of the brain and is not delivered where it is needed. Hypertension and head injuries are the usual causes of hemorrhagic strokes. Follow the link for additional information on hemorrhagic stroke.

Stroke Categories

Ischemia in the brain is subdivided into three categories, based on symptom duration. All three categories refer to the same disease: the categories help doctors determine the best tactics for stroke prevention and treatment. No matter what the classification, all three events should be treated seriously ignoring symptoms can be deadly.

  1. TIA: Transient ischemic attack, or “mini stroke,” symptoms last less than 24 hours, and occur when circulation to an area of the brain is temporarily restricted. On average, in fact, TIA symptoms last only two to thirty minutes and no permanent brain damage occurs. TIAs do, however, suggest blood vessel disease and a third of all people who experience TIA will go on to suffer a stroke.
  2. RIND: Reversible ischemic neurologic deficit symptoms last longer than those of a TIA. In fact, RIND symptoms generally last longer than 24 hours, but less than a week. Fortunately, however, RIND symptoms are transitory, occurring when blood flow to the brain is restricted temporarily. No permanent brain damage occurs, but RIND further increase the risk of having a stroke.
  3. Stroke: Symptoms of a major stroke persist for longer than 24 hours and are usually more severe than those of a TIA or RIND. A stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked significantly for a prolonged period or when circulation is stopped completely. Brain damage from this condition is permanent. Stroke injury can lead to paralysis, sensory problems, speech impairment, and even sudden death.

Stroke Symptoms: Information That Saves Lives

Perhaps the most important piece of information about strokes is this: the longer stroke symptoms are left untreated, the greater the amount of brain damage caused by restricted blood flow. Prompt treatment improves survival and minimizes loss of brain function due to cell death.

Stroke-Related InformationHeart disease, hypertension and atherosclerosis can all lead to strokes. The following links provide information on stroke-related conditions: