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Causes and Symptoms

What is a Stroke?

 A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is interrupted or reduced. Without blood to supply oxygen or nutrients to the brain, cells begin to die off. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and one of the major causes of long-term disability in adults—some 600,000 new stroke cases are reported each year.

Causes of Stroke

There can be many different causes of stroke. Stroke risk factors include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, family history, and old age. Depending on what part of the brain is affected, a stroke may cause loss of memory, speech impairment, reasoning ability, paralysis, coma or death.

Types of Stroke

There are two types of stroke: ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes. In addition to these two kinds of stroke, there are also transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), which are known as “mini-strokes.”

Signs of a Stroke

Here are serious, possible symptoms of stroke:

  • Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body
  • Loss of speech or trouble talking
  • Sudden loss of vision, particularly in one eye
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Trouble walking, unexplained dizziness, or loss of balance (in conjunction with other symptoms)

Strokes are a medical emergency. If you experience any stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical help by calling 911.

The National Stroke Association created the acronym FAST to help people remember the signs of stroke and respond quickly.

F: Face. Does one side of the person’s face droop when asked to smile?
A: Arms. Does the person’s arm drift downward when raised?
S: Speech. Is the person’s speech slurred or unclear?
T: Time. Act fast if you see any of these signs. Call 911.