Stroke Awareness: Get the Facts

Learn about the risk factors and how to prevent stroke

A Veteran and their partner reviewing an article on My HealtheVet about stroke awarenessA stroke occurs when either too much blood or too little blood disrupts blood flow to part of the brain. This deprives brain tissue of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes brain cells begin to die and the result is a loss of brain function. Brain damage from strokes can be minimized if they're treated promptly, but it's common to mistake signs of a stroke for other health problems, which delays treatment.

Several types of stroke present a wide range of symptoms:

  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is an early warning that a stroke may be coming. A TIA is a temporary stroke. It causes no lasting damage. But the effects of a stroke, if it happens, can be very serious and lasting. If you think you are having symptoms of a TIA or stroke--even if they don't last--get medical help right away.

  • Ischemic Stroke: Ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that supplies the brain is greatly narrowed or blocked. This can be caused by a buildup of plaque. It can also occur when small pieces of plaque or blood clots (called emboli) break off into the bloodstream.

  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain bursts (hemorrhages). This spills blood into the surrounding tissue. This type of stroke often happens suddenly, with little warning. It is one of the most serious of all types of strokes.

  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. This lets blood spill into nearby brain tissue, which damages the cells. Other brain cells die because their normal blood supply cuts off.

Risk factors for stroke

Certain health and lifestyle issues--called risk factors--increase your chances of having a stroke. The leading risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. But many other factors also put you at risk. Risk factors are different for each person.

Effects of a stroke on the brain and body

When blood supply cuts off from the brain, cells begin to die from lack of oxygen. Within minutes, you may lose skills such as reasoning, speech, and arm or leg movement. The severity depends on two things: which part of the brain was affected and how much tissue was damaged.

Preventing another stroke with a healthier lifestyle

Breaking old habits is hard. But when your health is at stake, it's never too late to make changes for the better. Some lifestyle changes might be easy for you. Others might be tough. If you need help, talk with your health care provider, family, or friends.

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Read More

Preventing Recurrent Stroke: Eating Healthy (Veterans Health Library)

Stroke and Heart Disease (Veterans Health Library)

Understanding High Blood Pressure 

Updated December 15, 2020