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Stroke Overview

A stroke is an alteration, usually acute, in brain function due to injured or killed brain cells. The alterations result in changes in a person's ability to function normally. For example, a person may not be able to speak or move an arm or leg. The majority of strokes are caused by reducing or stopping the blood supply to brain cells. Stroke is sometimes termed a brain attack or a cardiovascular accident (CVA). It is much like a heart attack, only it occurs in the brain. Like a heart attack, stroke is a medical emergency. Do not wait or hesitate to call for emergency medical help. If a stroke is suspected in an individual, fast treatment has the potential to make a big difference in outcome.

Call 9-1-1 for stroke

When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off or greatly decreased, a stroke occurs. If the blood supply is cut off for several hours or more, the brain cells, without enough blood supply, die.

Depending upon the amount of blood involved and location of the stroke area in the brain, a person having a stroke can show many signs and symptoms. These can range from barely noticeable difficulties in moving or speaking to paralysis or death.

Over the last 15 years stroke care has changed dramatically due to the availability of new drugs as well as improved diagnostic and treatment modalities. Nowadays, treatments for the acute event, while it is happening, are available which makes recognizing strokes and getting immediate care critically important.

  • Approximately 795,000 new strokes occur in the United States each year. Stroke is one of the most common causes of death (after heart disease and cancer). Strokes occur more frequently in older people but can occur in persons of all ages, including children. African Americans are at a higher risk of stroke than Caucasians. Hispanics have an intermediate risk.
  • A transient ischemic attack (also known as a TIA or mini-stroke) is similar to a stroke except that with a TIA, the symptoms go away completely within 24 hours. People who have a TIA are very likely to have a stroke in the near future.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/17/2015
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Stroke, Ischemic »

Stroke is characterized by the sudden loss of blood circulation to an area of the brain, resulting in a corresponding loss of neurologic function.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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