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The Atrium Medical Center (Atrium) Stroke Program believes it’s important for you to understand stroke so that you can recognize the symptoms, understand the effects, and be familiar with the different types of strokes if an emergency arises.

Ask Atrium

  • Robb Snider, MD talks about strokes and mini-strokes.  Read Article.

Understanding Stroke

A stroke is a medical emergency.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in your brain bursts or gets clogged, interfering with blood flow to your brain. Without oxygen, your brain cells suffer damage and may die. When this happens, the part of your body controlled by the damaged section of the brain can't function properly.

Symptoms of Stroke

A stroke is one of the most preventable of life-threatening conditions. Common symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or difficulty walking
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

If any signs or symptoms are experienced, it’s very important to call 911 immediately.

Learn more about Stroke Symptoms and Warning Signs.

Effects of Stroke

Depending on the type and extent of the brain injury, stroke can cause any of the following conditions:

  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of speech
  • Impaired vision
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion

Types of Strokes

There are three types of strokes: ischemic, hemorrhagic, and transient.

Ischemic Strokes

Ischemic strokes result from narrowing or blocked blood vessels in your brain. They account for about 80% of all strokes. Ischemic strokes occur in several instances, including:

  • When a blood clot forms in a brain artery
  • When a blood clot formed somewhere else in your body breaks free and travels to the brain
  • When high blood pressure or diabetes have narrowed the arteries in the brain

Hemorrhagic Strokes

Hemorrhagic strokes are more severe than ischemic ones. They involve bleeding in the brain caused by a blood vessel that leaks or ruptures. Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by disorders that affect blood vessels, including aneurysms and long-term high blood pressure that weakens arteries.

Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are often called “mini strokes.” TIAs present the same symptoms as other strokes, but they usually go away in less than 30 minutes. TIAs should never be ignored because they may be warnings of more serious strokes to come.

Stroke Prevention Strategies

Control High Blood Pressure
Eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly to reduce blood pressure. Health care providers may prescribe drugs for patients who need additional help lowering their blood pressure.

Don't Smoke
Not smoking reduces the risk of stroke. It is never too late to quit smoking. The recommendation is the sooner, the better. For former smokers who've not smoked in 10 years, the risk of stroke is the same as that of a nonsmoker.

Manage Heart Disease
Physicians can treat heart disease and may prescribe medication to help prevent the formation of blood clots. People age 50 or older should consult their physicians about taking aspirin daily.

Control Diabetes
Both diabetes and high blood pressure can be managed with weight control (diet and exercise) and medication. Strict control of blood sugar levels may reduce damage to the brain if a stroke occurs.

Manage Cholesterol
Even though high cholesterol may be a more important risk factor for heart attack, it also is a stroke risk factor and should be treated.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight contributes to other risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Losing as little as 10 pounds may lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

Seek Help for Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Although TIAs are transient (temporary), they are a sign of high risk of future stroke and should never be ignored. Medications or surgical or balloon angioplasty procedures may lessen the risk of stroke.

Common TIA symptoms include:

  • Loss of vision in one eye
  • Sudden weakness on one side of the body
  • Sudden loss of speech or language function

Patients should contact their physician immediately if they are uncertain about whether symptoms are TIAs. Further testing or a change in medication may be recommended.

Exercise Regularly
Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of stroke by lowering blood pressure, increasing the level of HDL cholesterol, and improving the overall health of blood vessels and the heart. Exercise also helps with weight reduction and diabetes control, and it  can reduce stress.

Manage Stress
Stress can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure — a risk factor for brain hemorrhage — or long-lasting hypertension. It can also increase the blood's tendency to clot, which may elevate the risk of ischemic stroke. Exercise and relaxation techniques may help reduce stress.

Internet Resources

Learn more about stroke with our Internet resources.

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