A stroke is often referred to as a "brain attack," cutting off blood and oxygen to the brain cells that control everything we do, from speaking, to walking, to breathing. Most strokes occur when arteries are blocked by blood clots or by the build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits.

Some strokes are caused when weak spots on the blood vessel wall break and rupture arteries. Brain tissue needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to function correctly. When the tissue is cut off from oxygen during a stroke, the tissue begins to die.

Every year stroke strikes approximately 750,000 Americans - killing 160,000, and forever changing the lives of many who survive. For people over 55, the risk of a stroke is greater than one in six. A stroke can cause permanent disability and even death. In fact, it is the fourth-leading cause of death in America, and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

The good news is that many strokes can be prevented. If you do have a stroke, new treatments may help stop brain damage and disability (if administered within three hours of the first sign of a stroke). Once you recognize the signs, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
  Types of Strokes
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke is the most serious. This type occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. Hemorrhage can occur in several ways. One common way is a weak spot in an artery wall that stretches or balloons out under pressure and eventually ruptures. It can also occur when the arterial wall breaks open, due to plaque or fatty deposit build-up.
  • Ischemic Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked, suddenly decreasing or stopping blood flow and causing brain damage. Blood clots are the most common cause of an ischemic stroke. This type of stroke accounts for 80 percent of all strokes.
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), also known as a "mini-stroke," occurs when the blood flow to part of the brain is cut off for a short period of time, usually less than 15 minutes. A TIA is a warning sign and should be treated seriously. Of the approximately 50,000 Americans that have a TIA each year, about one-third will have a stroke in the near future. So, if you experience the symptoms of a stroke for only a short period of time, then the symptoms go away, you may be having a "mini stroke." Although a TIA may not leave noticeable damage, it is important to talk to your doctor immediately.
Common Signs of a Stroke Include:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking

Learning them - and knowing what to do when they occur - could save your life.

A stroke is a medical emergency. If you experience any of the above signs or symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Treatment can be more effective if you receive it early on. Every second counts!

To help prevent stroke follow the ABCs  

Aspirin: take an aspirin a day. It is very important to talk to your doctor about the correct dosage BEFORE starting.

Blood Pressure: Keep your blood pressure under 140/90. See your health care provider and follow his recommendations.

Cholesterol: Remind your health care provider to test your cholesterol level and follow their directions.

Smoking Cessation: Stop smoking; there are many aids to help you stop smoking. Contact your health care provider for help, or visit www.utahquitnet.com or call Utah Tobacco Quit Line toll-free at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.