Learn more about strokes, stroke causes, why people who have had a stroke or TIA are more at risk of having another stroke, and why it's so important to reduce your risk.
- What is a stroke?
- Why does a history of stroke or TIA increase my stroke risk?
- What are the symptoms of a stroke?
- How could a stroke affect my health and lifestyle?
A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain. Without the oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood, brain cells begin to die. The longer blood flow is interrupted, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage and death.
Here are the most common types of stroke:
|Type of stroke||What happens|
|Ischemic stroke (80% of strokes)||
A blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Ischemic strokes may be:
|Hemorrhagic stroke (20% of strokes)||Blood vessels rupture in the brain, causing blood to leak out. The leaking blood and the interruption of normal blood flow damage the brain.|
Depending on the part of the brain affected, strokes can affect your vision, mobility, thoughts, memory, and speech. See "How could a stroke affect my health and lifestyle?" to learn more.
Some people may have a "mini-stroke," also called a TIA (transient ischemic attack). With a TIA, the blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked. A TIA causes the same symptoms as a stroke, but the symptoms usually disappear in minutes or hours. However, a TIA is still very serious because it could still cause brain damage, and because it is a warning that you are at risk of a stroke.
If you have had a stroke, you have a 20% chance of having another one in the next 2 years. That's 1 in 5! And recurrent strokes are more likely to be fatal.
If you have had a TIA, there is about a 12% (1 in 8) chance that you will have a full-blown stroke within 3 months. Half of those who do have a stroke will have it within 2 days of the TIA.
Why are strokes so common in people who have already had a stroke or TIA?
The answer is simple - if you've already had a stroke or TIA, you probably have risk factors that increase your stroke risk. If these risk factors have not been controlled, you have a very strong risk of having another stroke.
But there is good news. By combining different lifestyle changes and medical interventions, it has been suggested that 80% of secondary strokes can be prevented.
Stroke warning signs
Learn to recognize the warning signs of stroke. If you see them, respond immediately by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. It can significantly improve survival and recovery.
|Weakness - Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.|
|Trouble speaking - Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary.|
|Vision problems -Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.|
|Headache - Sudden severe and unusual headache.|
|Dizziness - Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.|
If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.
© Reproduced with the permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2011.
Print the stroke warning signs and put them on your fridge or in your wallet.
This list includes common stroke warning signs but is not a complete list of all possible warning signs. Some people may have additional warning signs not listed above.
The effects of a stroke vary from person to person: some people die, others recover completely, but many have effects that could last a lifetime.
Here's what could happen to you after a stroke:
|Very severe disability (you will need long-term care)||10%|
|Moderate-to-severe disability (you can function on your own but with difficulty)||40%|
|Mild disability (your disability is inconvenient but does not have a major impact on your life)||25%|
A stroke can affect many different parts of your life, depending on the areas of the brain that were damaged:
|Type of problem||What could happen?||How could this affect my life?|
You could have weakness or paralysis along one side of your body, painful muscle spasms, vision changes (double vision or "blind spots"), difficulty swallowing, constant pain, poor balance, or a loss of fine motor skills (the ability to make small, precise movements).
|It might be harder for you to get around and do your usual activities.|
You could have trouble speaking, understanding speech, remembering recent events, or learning and remembering new information.You could also have personality changes, poor judgment, and impulsive behaviour.
|It could be harder for you to do your job and function day to day.|
You may also feel frustrated, angry, depressed, or emotionally out of control.
|This could put a strain on your relationships.|
Some of these problems may improve over time. Stroke rehabilitation can help people regain some of the function they have lost and live life to the fullest.