Quick Access 
 | 
Skip Navigation Links
Doctor

What is a Stroke?

Stroke is the number three cause of death in America, and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. Stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing blood and oxygen to the brain gets blocked or ruptures and brain cells don’t get the flow of blood, and oxygen, that they need.

The good news about stroke is that it’s largely preventable. The other good news is that more than 5.8 million people who have had strokes are alive today! And much is being done to fight strokes. Clot-busting drugs such as tPA can stop a common type of stroke in progress, and reduce disability when treatment is sought right away.

Two Types of Stroke

Ischemic Stroke: This type of stroke occurs when blood vessels to the brain become narrowed or clogged, cutting off blood flow to brain cells.

  • Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke and account for about 87 percent of all strokes.
  • High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for ischemic stroke that you can change.
  • Ischemic strokes are typically preceded by symptoms or warning signs that may include loss of strength or sensation on one side of the body, problems with speech and language or changes in vision or balance.
  • Often a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or “mini stroke” may give some warning of a major ischemic stroke.

Hemorrhagic Stroke: This type of stroke happens when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain.

  • Hemorrhagic strokes account for about 13 percent of all strokes.
  • The fatality rate is higher and overall prognosis poorer.
  • People who have hemorrhagic strokes are younger.
  • This kind of stroke is often associated with a very severe headache, nausea and vomiting.
  • Usually the symptoms appear suddenly.