Stroke: Fast Facts

  • Stroke is also known as a cerebrovascular accident or "brain attack."
  • A stroke is a life-threatening event in which part of the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen.
  • Strokes are extremely dangerous, accounting for more than 160,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.
  • It is also a leading cause of adult disability and institutionalization.
  • Each year, about 700,000 people suffer strokes. Of those, 500,000 are first-time strokes, and 200,000 are recurrent.
  • There are two kinds of strokes.
  • An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, usually by a blood clot.
  • These clots may be caused by "hardening of the arteries" in the carotid arteries, which feed the head and brain with oxygen-rich blood.
  • The second kind of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when there is bleeding into or around the brain.
  • Treatment is important as soon as possible to reestablish the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain cells before permanent tissue damage or death occurs.
  • Medical personnel must act quickly to treat a stroke and re-establish blood flow to the brain.
  • People who survive a stroke should begin stroke rehabilitation as soon as possible to help regain lost functions.
  • Most recovery occurs during the first few months following a stroke.
  • New intensive rehabilitation techniques are offering hope for recovery even a year after a debilitating stroke.
  • There have been a number of recent advances in the treatment of stroke.
  • The risk of a recurrent stroke is very real.
  • People are usually advised to take a number of steps to reduce their risk for another stroke.
  • These steps might include eating a heart-healthy diet and taking aspirin or other antiplatelet agents.
  • For people with severe blockage of a carotid artery, a doctor might also recommend a form of preventative surgery.
  • According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the risk of stroke is greater - and the recovery process slower - for African Americans than for Caucasians.

Reviewed by Andrew Biondo, D.O.

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