Most strokes are caused by a blockage in an artery that carries blood to the brain. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. This can cause that part of the brain to be damaged, and you may lose control of a function that is controlled by that part of the brain. For example, you could lose the use of an arm or leg, or the ability to speak. The damage can be temporary or permanent, partial or complete. Doctors have found that if you get treatment right away after symptoms start, there is a better chance of getting the blood moving to your brain, and less chance of damage.
There are two kinds of stroke. The more common kind, called ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. The other kind, called hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain.
“Mini-strokes,” or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), occur when the blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- If you have any of these symptoms, you must get to a hospital quickly to begin treatment.
- Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol level
- Previous transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Heart disease
- Carotid artery disease (artery that carries blood to the brain)
- Control your blood pressure
- Avoid foods that are high in fat and cholesterol, and eat less sodium to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar level under control
- Limit how much alcohol you drink.
- Quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.