What is a Stroke?
A stroke is the result of sudden loss of blood flow to the brain due to blood vessel blockage or clot burst. Loss of blood flow deprives the brain of oxygen and glucose (s)ugar, and causes rapid buildup of waste products that injure or kill brain cells. When brain cells are injured or die, the bodily functions they control such as speech or use of limbs are impaired or lost. Stroke can also affect your memory, ability to understand and emotions.
African Americans are at particularly high risk for stroke—almost twice the risk of first-ever strokes and higher death rates as compared to Caucasians.
Types of Stroke
There are three main types of stroke:
- Ischemic strokes are the most common type. They're caused when blood vessels leading to the brain become blocked, preventing oxygen from reaching the brain.
- Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are indicators of a high risk for stroke. In a TIA, the blood clot occurs for a short time and resolves itself. Although TIAs are temporary, they're strong indicators of a possible major stroke.
- Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels in or around the brain break.
How Can I Minimize My Risk for Stroke?
Many risk factors can be controlled or treated to reduce your chance of having a stroke:
- High blood pressure—limit salt intake, exercise regularly, and take medications as prescribed
- Tobacco use and smoking—your doctor can offer programs to help you quit
- Alcohol use—do not have more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men
- Diabetes—control your blood sugar through proper diet, exercise and medication
- High cholesterol—eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, reduce intake of red meat, dairy products and eggs, exercise, and take medications as prescribed
- Excessive weight and physical inactivity—try to get 30 minutes of physical activity each day