Stroke Is No Joke | MedStar Health

Stroke Is No Joke

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A senior man bicycles with his grandson.


Just as a lack of blood flow to the heart causes a heart attack, a lack of blood flow to the brain causes a brain attack, or stroke. Typically a stroke occurs when an artery that supplies the brain with blood is either blocked or bursts. Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood, or when there is sudden bleeding into or around the brain.

Although all strokes happen in the brain, there are two different types of strokes: hemorrhagic and ischemic. During a hemorrhagic stroke, blood vessels rupture and allow blood to leak into the brain. During an ischemic stroke, a blood clot stops the flow of blood into the brain.

Risk factors

Strokes are caused by the same risk factors that cause heart attacks, including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and obesity.

How to recognize a stroke

 A stroke can happen to anyone, at any time and in any place. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke is the first step to ensuring immediate medical help. Learn as many of these stroke symptoms as possible so you can recognize a stroke FAST and save a life!

F – Face droops on one sideA – Arm drifts down on one sideS – Speech sounds strangeT – Time is critical, so get help quickly!

A medical emergency

For each minute that a stroke goes untreated, a person loses about 1.9 million neurons. This loss of brain cells can affect a person’s speech, movement, memory and so much more. Immediate stroke treatment may save someone's life and enhance his or her chances for successful rehabilitation and recovery.

If you observe any stroke symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Secondly, try to note the exact time of the first symptom and the exact time when you saw the person without those symptoms. In addition, find out all of the medications the person currently takes (for any condition), and which medications the person has taken today. This information can affect treatment decisions.