Neuroscience: Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted due to a clot or leakage of a blood vessel into the brain. When this happens, brain cells begin to die. Treating stroke quickly and effectively is the difference between ability and disability or even life and death. The first step in this process is to be taken to a hospital that is experienced and fully equipped to provide an accurate diagnosis and rapid treatment. Your brain is your body’s most vital and delicate organ. Immediate response is crucial, because every minute lost, from the onset of symptoms to the time of emergency contact, cuts into the limited window of opportunity for intervention.

The most common stroke symptoms are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you see someone having these symptoms or experience any of these symptoms yourself, call 911 immediately. Treatment can be more effective if given quickly. Every minute counts. These common symptoms of stroke can be remembered by the acronym FAST. If you think someone may be having a stroke, act FAST and do this simple test:

F = Face: Ask the person to smile. Is one side of the face drooping down?
A = Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?
T = Time: If the person shows any sign of these symptoms, time is important. Call 911 or get to a hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.

Every one of CHS's six hospitals has earned Get With The Guidelines® Gold Plus recognition for stroke care from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Learn more about CHS's commitment to stroke care.


Stroke Statistics

  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Statistics indicate that an estimated 135,592 people in the United States died from cerebrovascular disease in 2007.
  • Of all strokes, 87% are ischemic, 10% are intracerebral hemorrhage and 3% are subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • While the incidence has increased, there has been a steady decline in mortality rates since 2002.
  • Of the more than 795,000 Americans affected every year, about 610,000 of these are first attacks and 185,000 are recurrent.
  • About 25% of people who recover from their first stroke will have another stroke within five years.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability, with an estimated 5.4 million stroke survivors currently alive today.
  • In 2010, stroke cost about $73.7 billion in both direct and indirect costs in the United States alone.

Source: American Heart Association, Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics, 2010 Update.

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