MortonServices and Clinical Centers

Stroke Information

About Stroke

According to the American Heart Association, every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. Stroke is the fourth leading death of Americans and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so it starts to die.

Clots that block a blood vessel cause ischemic strokes. This is the most common type of stroke, accounting for approximately 87 percent of strokes. Ruptured blood vessels cause hemorrhagic, or bleeding, strokes and account for 13 percent of strokes.

When part of the brain dies from lack of blood flow, the part of the body it controls is affected. Strokes can cause paralysis, affect language and vision, and cause other problems. Treatments are available to minimize the potentially devastating effects of stroke, but to receive them, one must recognize the warning signs and act quickly.

Stroke Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • 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 are having a stroke, every minute counts. The faster you get to a designated stroke center, the better your chances of a full recovery.

Stroke Treatment

Knowing the warning signs and acting quickly greatly increases the chances of receiving the most effective treatment for any type of stroke. Because their mechanisms are different, the treatments for the two types of strokes are different:

  • Ischemic strokes are treated by removing the clot and restoring blood flow to the brain. The most promising treatment for ischemic stroke is the FDA-approved clot busting drug tPA, which must be administered within three hours of the onset of symptoms to work best. Generally, only three to five percent of patients who suffer a stroke reach the hospital in time to be considered for treatment. That's why it is so important to call 911 as soon as you begin to experience symptoms.
  • Hemorrhagic strokes are treated surgically by clipping off or removing the ruptured or leaking blood vessel.

Risk Factors for Stroke

Risk factors are traits and lifestyle habits that increase the risk of disease. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of having a stroke. Some risk factors can be changed, and some can't. The following is a list of risk factors that can be controlled or treated:

  • High blood pressure—this is the most important risk factor for stroke. High blood pressure is called the "Silent Killer" because it usually has no specific symptoms or early warning signs. That's why it is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have high blood pressure, you should be under the regular care of a health care provider who can treat and monitor your condition.
  • Tobacco use—cigarette smoking is a major, preventable risk factor for stroke. If you smoke, get help to quit now!
  • Diabetes mellitus—diabetes increases a person's risk of stroke. If you have diabetes, work closely with your health care provider to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
  • Carotid or other artery disease—the carotid arteries in your neck supply blood to your brain. A carotid artery narrowed by fatty deposits from atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in artery walls) may become blocked by a blood clot.
  • Atrial fibrillation—in atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating normally, which can let the blood pool and clot. If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results.
  • Other heart disease—people with coronary heart disease or heart failure have a higher risk of stroke than those whose hearts work normally.
  • Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)—TIAs are "warning strokes" that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. If you have any of the symptoms of a stroke, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • Certain blood disorders—A high red blood cell count thickens the blood and makes clots more likely, raising the risk of stroke. Doctors may treat this problem by removing blood cells or prescribing "blood thinners." Sickle cell disease, a genetic disease that affects mainly African Americans, also raises the risk of a stroke.
  • High blood cholesterol—A high level of total cholesterol in the blood (240 mg/dL or higher) is a major risk factor for heart disease, which raises your risk of stroke. High levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides, and low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol also may increase your risk of stroke.
  • Physical inactivity and obesity—being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease and stroke. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days.
  • Excessive alcohol— drinking more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or more than two drinks a day for men can raise blood pressure and may increase the risk of stroke.
  • Some illegal drugs— intravenous drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke. Cocaine use has been linked to strokes and heart attacks. Some have been fatal even in first-time users.

Risk Factors that Can't be Changed

  • Increasing age—people of all ages, even children, can have strokes. However, the older you are, the greater your risk of stroke.
  • Gender—stroke is more common in men than women. However, women account for more than half of all stroke deaths. Women who are pregnant have a higher stroke risk. Women who take birth control pills who also smoke or have high blood pressure or other risk factors are at increased risk of stroke.
  • Heredity and race—your stroke risk is higher if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke. African Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do.
  • Prior stroke or heart attack—someone who has had a stroke is at much higher risk of having another one. If you've had a heart attack, you're at higher risk of having a stroke, too.

For More Information

 


Emergency Department
Morton Hospital
508-828-7100

Stroke Education
Morton Hospital
508-828-7193

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