What is a Stroke (Brain Attack)?

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the fifth cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts.  When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.

There are two different types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, and it occurs when a blood clot in a vessel blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain.
While transient ischemic attack (TIA) is often labeled “mini-stroke,” it is more accurately characterized as a “warning stroke,” a warning you should take very seriously.

TIA is caused by a blood clot; the only difference between a stroke and TIA is that with TIA the blockage is transient (temporary). TIA symptoms are the same as stroke symptoms but resolve spontaneously.  Most TIAs last less than five minutes; the average is about a minute. When a TIA is over, it usually causes no permanent injury to the brain. 

When symptoms of stroke occur, you can’t tell if they will resolve (TIA) or cause brain damage (stroke), therefore you MUST not wait to see if they go away. Call 911 immediately. Even when symptoms do resolve, steps should be taken immediately to prevent a stroke.