Types of Stroke, Risk Factors, and Stroke Symptoms

There are two types of stroke or CVA, hemorrhagic and ischemic. Hemorrhagic stroke is essentially a brain bleed and occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke accounts for approximately 20% of strokes. Ischemic stroke, on the other hand is much more common and occurs because of a blocked artery or obstruction such as a clot or fatty deposit. An ischemic stroke and a transient ischemic attach (TIA) are similar but are not the same. A stroke causes symptoms that last for at least 24 hours. The TIA or "mini stroke" as some call it has symptoms that improve in a much shorter period of time. Click here for more information on TIA or mini stroke symptoms.

It is important to know which type of stroke you have experienced because medical treatment is different. How do you know? Before starting treatment, your physician will perform an imaging test such as a CAT Scan or MRI to correctly diagnose your CVA. It is important to restore blood flow with an ischemic stroke, but for a hemorrhagic stroke, the goal is to control brain bleeding.

You may have heard other terms for stroke such as lacunar infarct, thrombotic infarct, embolic infarct, diabetic stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, and so on. These all fall within the two types of stroke identified above, and you can find more information about these specific types of hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes on their respective webpages.

The following are risk factors for stroke:

Age - stroke risk increases tenfold for each decade of life after age 55

Hereditary -  risk increases if immediate family members or grandparents had a stroke

Sex - more men have strokes than women

Prior stroke, TIA, or heart attack

High blood pressure - causes artery walls to weaken

Diabetes mellitus - high blood sugar can damage the heart and blood vessels which can lead to a heart attack or stroke

Carotid or Artery Disease

Other Heart Disease

Sickle Cell Anemia

High Cholesterol or Hyperlipidemia

Cigarette Smoking

Poor Diet

Physical Inactivity

Obesity

Stroke Prevention - To help prevent stroke, take the following steps:

Maintain a healthy weight

Exercise regularly

Eat heart healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, foods with fiber)

Keep blood pressure under control (normal = less than 120/80)

Keep cholesterol under control (keep total cholesterol less than 200, HDL over 40, LDL less than 130, and triglycerides less than 150)

Keep blood sugar under control.

Don't smoke.

Take medications as directed (make sure to know the side effects of medication and interactions with other medications - always inform your MD of any medications you are taking before starting a new one).

To find out more about stroke prevention and the above topics, click here.

How Do I Know if I'm Having a Stroke?

Some common stroke symptoms or signs of a stroke include the following:

Weakness - One may discover that one side of their body is noticeably weaker. Various musculature may be affected including the face, arms, trunk and legs. This weakness may present as inability to lift the arm, inability to smile on one side of the face, inability to move the leg or walk, or inability to maintain sitting balance.

Numbness - One may notice numbness and tingling, particularly on one side of the body.

Confusion - This may present as memory problems, inability to understand or follow directions, or inability to speak coherently.

Vision Problems - One may have trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

Slurred Speech - If mouth musculature becomes weakened, one may have difficulty talking and present with slurred speech.

Trouble Walking - Stumbling, falling, inability to stand, or dragging one leg can all be stroke symptoms.

Dizziness

Loss of Balance - Balance problems may appear in sitting or standing. One may begin leaning to one side or not be able to stand or even sit up.

Loss of Coordination - Movements may become jerky or uncoordinated.

Severe Headache - Some stroke victims experience headache. It is important to seek medical attention quickly if you have an extremely severe headache that comes on suddenly.

If you experience the above symptoms, especially in combination, seek medical attention immediately. Heeding the warning signs of stroke and seeking medical assistance can help minimize brain damage from both types of stroke.






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