A Stroke is a cardiovascular disease that affects the blood supply to the brain and is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. While 4.4 million people have survived strokes or cardiovascular accidents (CVA), they still account for over 150,000 deaths in the United States each year. A stroke is caused when a blood vessel to the brain bursts or becomes clogged. If the brain does not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs, the nerve cells in the area of the accident begin to die within minutes. The parts of the body controlled by those nerve cells will no longer function properly and a neurological deficit will occur.
Strokes caused by blood clots are the most common and account for 70-80 percent of all CVAs. A blood clot can form in the arteries or in the heart and blocks blood flow to the brain. A hemorrhage, or bleed in the brain, causes a stroke when blood vessels in the brain burst. This can reduce blood flow to the brain or fill the skull with blood creating pressure on the surrounding brain tissue and interfering with how the brain functions.
The warning signs of a stroke are a sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg usually on one side of the body. A person may have sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding. They may also have trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, and severe headache with no known cause or trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Not all of these signs occur in every stroke attack and sometimes the signs go away and return.
Ten years ago, a stroke almost always caused permanent damage. Today, new drugs and medical procedures can limit or reduce the damage caused by a stroke. The sooner the 911 emergency system is activated, the better the chance for a good recovery.