A stroke, sometimes called a "brain attack," happens when blood flow is cut off to a part of your brain, stopping the cells from getting the blood they need to live. Brain cells may recover, but after a few minutes, they could die, resulting in permanent damage.
You can change or manage some things that put you at risk for a stroke, such as high blood pressure and smoking. Others, including age and race, you can't. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that 8 out of 10 strokes can be prevented.
After a stroke, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns about how -- and even if -- you will recover. When will you be able to move your arms? Is your independent life gone forever?
It's difficult to predict to what degree someone will recover after a stroke, says Randie M. Black-Schaffer, MD. Schaffer is medical director of the Stroke Program at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. "How quickly a patient recovers in the first few weeks," she says, "can give us an indication of...
Talk to your doctor about your medical history and your lifestyle. He can help you treat any diseases or conditions and lower your risk for having a stroke.
Types of Strokes
Most common is an ischemic stroke. It happens when a blood vessel that takes blood to your brain gets blocked. Often, it's by a blood clot that traveled from another part of your body. For example, fatty deposits in arteries can break off, flow to the brain, and cause blood clots. And sometimes clots form in the heart when you have poor blood flow because of an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation.
A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel in your brain bursts and bleeds, which can damage the tissue. They're less common but more serious. Uncontrolled high blood pressure and over-using blood thinners can lead to this kind of stroke.
High blood pressure, 140/90 or higher, is the leading risk for stroke. When blood pushes too forcefully against the walls of your arteries, it can damage or weaken them and lead to stroke. Ideally, try to keep your blood pressure below 120/80.