Just as a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the blockage of blood and oxygen to the heart, a stroke (or brain attack) affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so the affected brain cells die.
The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions. If a stroke occurs and blood flow can’t reach the region that controls a particular body function, then that part of the body won’t work as it should.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the fifth highest cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the U.S. The American Stroke Association reports nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year and one out of four people who experience stroke has a recurrence.
The effects of a stroke depend on the location of the blockage and the amount of brain tissue affected. Because one side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body, a stroke affecting one side of the brain will result in limited activity on the opposite side of the body. If a stroke happens in one of the following areas, some or all these problems might occur:
- Right Brain: Paralysis on the left side of the body; vision problems; quick, inquisitive behavioral style; and memory loss.
- Left Brain: Paralysis on the right side of the body; speech and/or language problems; slow, cautious behavioral style; and memory loss.
- Brain Stem: Affects both sides of the body and can cause coordination difficulties.
There are three different types of Brain Attacks: ischemic, hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attack (TIA).
- Ischemic: When the blood flow is blocked by a clot it is called an ischemic. The primary clot-forming culprit is caused by the fatty deposits lining the vessel walls, medically known as atherosclerosis. These fatty deposits can cause two types of obstruction: a blood clot, which develops at the clogged part of the vessel (thrombosis); and a clot that forms at another location in the body, usually the heart and large arteries of the upper chest, which breaks loose and travels into the smaller vessels in the brain where it gets stuck and blocks blood flow (embolism). Ischemic stroke accounts for more than 80 percent of all strokes.
- Hemorrhagic: When a blood vessel ruptures and blood flow to a portion of the brain is interrupted, it is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes result from a weakened vessel that ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain. The blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue. Ruptured vessels can occur inside the brain (intracerebral hemorrhage) or in the space between the brain and the tissue covering the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage. Approximately 13 percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic.
- TIA: The last type of Brain Attack is a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is caused by a temporary clot. While a TIA is often labeled a mini-stroke, it is more accurately characterized as a warning stroke − a warning you should take very seriously as a bigger stroke may just be around the corner. About one in three people who have a TIA will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year of the TIA. Most TIAs last less than five minutes; the average is about a minute. Symptoms may include weakness, numbness or paralysis in the face, arm or leg; slurred or garbled speech; difficulty understanding speech; blindness in one or both eyes; dizziness or loss of balance or coordination; and sudden, severe headache with no cause. Symptoms may happen once or be reoccurring. When a TIA is over, it causes no permanent injury to the brain.
Think F-A-S-T; Act FAST
When it comes to recognizing and treating a stroke, every second counts. Immediate action can help prevent brain damage and long-term disability. Just think F-A-S-T:
F: Facial drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Slurred speech or difficulty swallowing
T: Time to call 911
Other possible signs of a stroke include weakness, paralysis or numbness and/or pins and needles sensation of any part of the body; loss of balance, coordination or trouble walking; blurred vision or trouble seeing in one or both eyes; dizziness; severe headache unlike past headaches; memory loss; and behavioral changes.
Remember to think and act F-A-S-T if you see someone who may be having these symptoms. Don’t delay and call 911 immediately.
Stroke Rehabilitation in Northern Arizona
If a loved one has suffered a stroke, the highest quality care is available right here in Northern Arizona – no need to leave home. The Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona is nationally recognized and certified to provide state of the art quality care and rehabilitation for stroke suffers including medical care, physical, occupational and speech/language therapies.
The newly opened Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona, located on McMillian Mesa, is the only rehabilitation hospital in the region, serving all of Northern Arizona. The 40-bed rehabilitation hospital provides intensive rehabilitation services to people recovering from disabling diseases or injuries, such as strokes, brain, spinal cord and orthopedic injuries. For more information, visit rhna.ernesthealth.com or call 928-774-7070. Follow on Facebook at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona. FBN
By Richard Holt, D.O.
Richard Holt, D.O., is the medical director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona. Dr. Holt specializes in helping patients recover from injury or disease and live the highest quality of life possible.