Stroke FAQs

Answers FAQ

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP on November 29, 2017

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Q:What is a stroke?

A:A stroke is a result of low oxygen or low blood flow to an area of the brain.

This can happen from a blood clot causing a blockage of blood flow (ischemic stroke), a leak in a blood vessel, or a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Blood carries oxygen to the tissues of the brain, and when blood flow is reduced part of the brain is permanently damaged.

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Q:What is the most major risk factor for stroke?

A:The leading cause of stroke is high blood pressure (hypertension), making it the highest risk factor for stroke.

Other risk factors for stroke include:

- Smoking
- Diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity
- Artery disease
- Age over 65

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Q:Strokes rarely occur in people under 65. True or False?

A:False.

While approximately two-thirds of strokes happen in people over age 65, people under age 65 can still have a stroke. Stroke risk does increase with age, but anyone at any age can have a stroke.

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Q:More women die from stroke than men. True or false?

A:Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death for women.

Women tend to live longer than men, putting them at risk for several factors that can make a stroke more deadly. Women are more likely to live alone when they have a stroke, be more likely to live in a long-term health care facility after a stroke, and to have a worse recovery following a stroke.

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Q:Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. True or False?

A:True.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and the third-leading cause of death in women.

The top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are:

- Heart disease
- Cancer
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases
- Accidents
- Stroke
- Alzheimer's disease
- Diabetes
- Influenza and pneumonia
- Nephritis, nephritic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney diseases)
- Intentional self-harm (suicide)

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Q:What region in the U.S. has the highest death rate from stroke?

A:Southeastern region.

The southeastern region of the U.S. has the highest death rate in the country from stroke. This area is called the “Stroke Belt,” because 11 states have stroke death rates more than 10 percent higher than the U.S. average: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

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Q:A stroke is a medical emergency. True or False?

A:True.
A stroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 911.
Stroke treatment with "clotbuster" medication is limited to the first three hours (may be 4.5 hours in certain cases) after symptom onset. It is critical to get to the hospital's emergency department as soon as a possible stroke is identified to improve outcomes. Calling 911 expedites stroke care and leads to a better recovery.
The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association suggest you know the signs of a stroke and act FAST:
Face — Drooping Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
Arm — Weakness Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Weakness or numbness usually appears on one side of the body.
Speech Difficulty — Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 911 — If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

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Q:What is the most common treatment for stroke?

A:Blood thinners are the most common treatment for stroke.

Blood thinners are used to treat acute stroke. The "clotbuster" drug used in emergency settings is called alteplase (Activase), also referred to as tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).

Blood thinners are also used to prevent or decrease the risk of stroke in conditions such as heart disease, atrial fibrillation, heart valve disorders, hypercoagulable states, and previous cerebral vascular disease.

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Q:Blood supply to the brain that is briefly interrupted describes what?

A:A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also referred to as a mini-stroke, occurs when there is a temporary interruption on the blood flow to an area of the brain.

The symptoms of a TIA generally last less than an hour, and always resolve within one day. They do not usually cause brain damage and may not be seen on conventional stroke testing (CAT scan). Mini-strokes are a warning that a damage-causing stroke may occur in the near future.

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Q:What condition and stroke can occur together, or in very close proximity?

A:Patients with new onset arrhythmias of the heart (abnormal heartbeat), especially atrial fibrillation, are at higher risk for having a stroke.

Patients may not know they are in atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) and they develop blood clots that develop in the heart and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

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Q:What is another term for stroke?

A:Brain attack. Stroke is also referred to as a "cerebrovascular accident" (CVA) or a "brain attack."

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