The word stroke comes from a Greek word meaning to be struck down, and that is pretty much what happens. Suddenly, you find yourself unable to walk, talk, or even smile as you did before. It is a medical emergency. As with any emergency, time is of the essence, but with early identification and timely treatment in the emergency room, the worst effects of most strokes can be avoided. If you or a family member is at risk of a stroke, you can prepare yourself to act rapidly by learning as much as you can about strokes and your risk of having one.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. But while the heart attack mortality rate has fallen considerably over the past few decades, stroke deaths have not declined nearly as much. This is probably because Americans are generally less knowledgeable about strokes, what causes them, risk factors, warning signs and possible consequences.
A stroke is basically a brain attack. It occurs, in most cases, because normal blood flow to the brain has been blocked because of diseased blood vessels and/or a blood clot. This is known as an ischemic stroke, accounting for about 80 to 90 percent of cases. A stroke can also be caused by an intracerebral hemorrhage, a sudden rupture of an artery inside the brain, or by a subarachnoid hemorrhage, the rupture of an artery in a location that leads to blood filling spaces surrounding the brain rather than inside it.