A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. About 80 percent of cases are caused by a blood clot or blockage of an artery. A stroke can also occur if the blood vessel itself is damaged. Without a good blood supply, brain cells cannot get the oxygen they need to function. If the supply is interrupted long enough, the brain cells will die.
The effects of a stroke depend on how long the interruption lasts. A mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when a blood vessel is temporarily blocked. When the blood supply is restored, the symptoms disappear within minutes and may not cause much damage to the brain cells. A TIA can be a sign of a more serious stroke approaching, so it’s important to take them seriously and seek help even if the symptoms go away on their own. 4 out of 10 people who have a TIA will have a stroke.
A massive stroke can cause very serious symptoms, including long-term complications due to damage to brain cells. If you don’t get immediate help, a stroke can be fatal. The sooner you seek help, the better your chances of recovery.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can have a stroke, but some of us are more likely to have a stroke than others. It’s important to know if you’re at high risk so you know the warning signs. You may not know if your blood vessels are at risk of weakening or bursting, but other risk factors for stroke can be checked and changed regularly.
Most strokes occur when blood clots or blockages form in blood vessels that supply the brain. Fortunately, many of the factors that increase the risk of these types of blockages are within our control, so you can take steps to reduce your risk.
In the following cases, the risk of stroke is high.
You are overweight
You drink a lot
You have high cholesterol
Your blood pressure is high
You have certain conditions, such as diabetes or atrial fibrillation
A balanced diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce many of these risks.
If you want to know your risk of stroke, you should talk to your doctor or get a physical exam. Checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other factors can tell you if you’re more likely to develop blood clots or blocked arteries that could cause a stroke.