A stroke occurs when a blood clot or blockage stops blood flow to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain breaks, interrupting blood flow to a part of the brain. When blood is cut off to the brain, cells die and damage occurs. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke, and it’s a leading cause of death for Americans—every 3.5 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies of a stroke.1
Every second counts if you or someone you know is having a stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. You only have three hours from the time of your first symptom to receive treatment that can minimize the damage to your brain that can cause serious, long-term, disabilities. If you get to the hospital and it’s a stroke, you’ll get the help you need. That’s why it’s so important to know the warning signs of a stroke so that you can act quickly.
Types of strokes
Strokes happen for two different reasons. The most common cause is blood stops flowing to the brain. Blood flow is blocked by a clot, or a buildup of a fatty substance called plaque in an artery leading to the brain—a process called atherosclerosis, or cardiovascular disease. There are several different types of strokes, which include the following:
- Ischemic stroke (“brain attacks”) – Caused by blockage of blood flow to the brain, approximately 87% percent of strokes are ischemic.2 Ischemic strokes are caused by cardiovascular disease, which can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle that includes eating right, exercising, and not smoking.
- Hemorrhagic stroke – These strokes happen when an artery leading to the brain bursts because it’s weak or damaged from aging or years of high blood pressure. It’s important for you and your doctor to know the cause of the stroke to determine the best treatment.
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA) – Also known as a “mini-stroke,” a TIA passes quickly and is caused by a blood clot or a piece of plaque blocking or restricting blood from flowing through an artery to the brain. In a TIA, whatever was blocking the artery breaks loose and moves along, allowing blood to once more flow freely to the brain—which causes you to feel better. But this is why you may not even realize that you’ve had a TIA.
- Cryptogenic stroke – A stroke is considered to be cryptogenic when the cause of the stroke can’t be determined, even with testing. A possible hidden cause of this type of stroke is a condition called patent foramen ovale (PFO), which is essentially a hole in the heart. Everyone is born with this hole, but it naturally closes soon after birth. However, in some people, it stays open, which is a PFO. People often don’t know they have a PFO since it really produces no symptoms until they’re having a stroke.
- Silent stroke – It’s possible to have a stroke and not know it. A test taken for some unrelated purpose may show lesions on your brain. Those lesions are evidence of damage to the brain tissue caused by a stroke. At that point, you can’t really repair the damage, but it’s important to know that you’re at an even greater risk for stroke than you may have realized. Talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk of having another stroke in the future.
Are you at risk?
Learn more about your risk and how to reduce your risk factors.
Did you know?
- Black adults are 50% more likely to have a stroke than white adults.3
- Black men are 70% more likely to die from a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic white men.3
- Black women are twice as likely to have a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic white women.3
- In 2014, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders were almost four times more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanic white adults.3
- Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders are 30% more likely to die from a stroke than non-Hispanic whites.3
Jim Sparacino experienced heart attack symptoms and was rushed to the hospital. An interventional cardiologist performed a carotid angioplasty, and stenting, a procedure that has been studied in many patients and is as safe and effective as surgical options.