By Heather Michon | Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. That’s around 800,000 people per year. Sadly, 20% are fatal and the majority of victims live with some level of permanent disability.

What is a stroke, exactly?

Understanding a StrokeOur brains need a continuous supply of blood to function, and it receives this endless flow from a network of arteries that circulate blood from the heart.

If any of these arteries become blocked or burst, blood flow to part of the brain stops, and brain cells begin to die. Depending on the location, this can quickly result in a loss of motor or cognitive function.

Every stroke is unique, but some of the more common long-term effects can include weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, trouble speaking or mixing up words, difficulty swallowing, along with pain, numbness, fatigue, mood problems, and a host of other issues.

Why do they occur?

The most common type, accounting for 87% of all known strokes, occurs as the result of a blockage in an artery. Strokes may also occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

A “mini-stroke,” as the name implies, is a temporary blockage in an artery. While not as damaging as a full stroke, a mini-stroke is often a warning that a major attack could occur.

What are the risk factors?

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • History of smoking
  • Genetic factors
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib)

Unfortunately, our risk grows as we age. Race also plays a role; African-Americans face twice the risk and suffer a higher mortality rate.

The good news is that 80% of all strokes are preventable through a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.

What are the signs?

The keyword for symptoms is “sudden.” It most often strikes without warning.

  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Sudden weakness in the face or limbs, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking
  • Sudden loss of balance or vision

Because victims often can’t communicate what’s happening to them, it’s important for others to know what to look for. The FAST test can help quickly diagnose a stroke emergency:

Learn more from American Stroke Association and National Stroke Association.



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References –

Arteries that supply blood to the brain –

Stroke Facts –

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