Medically Reviewed by Joshua A. Sibille, MD
Stroke, a scary word, that corresponds to a “heart attack of the brain.” McLeod Vascular Surgeon Joshua Sibille, MD, explains the various factors that put you at increased risk – some of which you can and should control.
Here’s an overview of Dr. Sibille’s comments:
Stroke is very common. There are about 795 thousand strokes in the U.S. every year and about 145-thousand deaths from stroke. That works out to about every four seconds, someone in the country has a stroke and about every four minutes, somebody dies from a stroke. Some 600-thousand of these are first strokes and the remainder are patients who’ve had a previous stroke. About 75% of these occur in patients over the age 65.
So, what do we talk about when you’re looking for signs of a stroke? F-A-S-T is a very common acronym. It’s been for years. It’s an easy way to remember.
There’s also something called a Trans Ischemic Attack (TIA), which is also known as a mini stroke. If the neurological deficits, facial weakness, asymmetrical limb weakness and speech difficulties can totally disappear within 24 hours. A person has about 19% risk of stroke over the next 10 years if they suffer a TIA. Even if your symptoms go away, it’s important to seek medical care.
There’s also Amaurosis Fugax, which is like someone pulled a dark shade over their eye but, then, vision returns. It’s caused by a piece of blood clot going to the retinal artery in the eye. It also is a sign of increased stroke as well.
So, these are small things that don’t necessarily last. They’re not permanent, but it’s still things that if you develop them, you should seek medical care.
The causes of stroke are broken down into two categories.
There’s ischemic, which is the blockage of the blood flow to the brain. It can be caused by atherosclerosis (calcium and hardening of the arteries) or embolic, typically caused by atrial fibrillation. Patients who have an abnormal heartbeat can develop some clot in their heart and that clot can send a little piece to the brain.
About 13% of strokes are hemorrhagic, bleeding into the brain related to blood pressure control. We’re going to talk mostly about the ischemic.