About Stroke

A stroke occurs when there is a sudden interruption of blood flow to an area in the brain. There are two major types of stroke:

  1. Ischemic - a blockage of blood flow
  2. Hemorrhagic - bleeding within the skull

Hemorrhagic stroke can be further subdivided into intracerebral hemorrhage in which there is bleeding within the brain itself and subarachnoid hemorrhage in which there is bleeding in the space surrounding the brain.

Stroke is a disease with major public health consequences. There are more than 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year, and it is the fifth leading cause of death. Stroke is a leading cause of permanent disability in adults. Stroke is of particular importance in Alabama, which sits in the part of the Southeastern U.S. dubbed the "Stroke Belt," due to its excess in stroke deaths compared with other states. The cause of the Stroke Belt remains a mystery but is the subject of a very large ongoing study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Stroke Risk Factors

Non-modifiable (Cannot change)

  • Age
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Prior stroke

Modifiable (Can change)

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Carotid artery stenosis
  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Heart Disease
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • No or inadequate exercise
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Stress
  • Diet


Stroke Signs/Symptoms

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

If you or someone you're with experiences any one of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately! There are available treatments to reduce or reverse the debilitating effects of stroke, but they must be initiated quickly after the onset of symptoms. Every minute counts!

If the symptoms above resolve within 24 hours and leave no tissue damage in the brain, they reflect a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or "warning stroke." Do not wait to see if the symptoms are going to go away! Several recent studies have shown that patients with recent TIA are at a high risk for developing a subsequent stroke and should therefore be evaluated urgently. Call 911!


Stroke Prevention

Stroke is a largely preventable disease and the cornerstone of management involves identification and treatment of modifiable risk factors. For patients with previous ischemic stroke, some type of antiplatelet medicine (e.g., aspirin, aspirin + dipyridamole (Aggrenox), or clopidogrel (Plavix)) or a blood thinning medicine (e.g., an anticoagulant such as warfarin (Coumadin, Eliquis, Xarelto, or Pradaxa)) will likely be prescribed, as well as an intensive statin therapy, and if indicated, diabetic or hypertensive medication to control diabetes or hypertension dependent of identified individual risk factors. Some patients may benefit from surgery to reduce blockage in the carotid artery. 



American Stroke Association
National Stroke Association
Stroke Belt Consortium


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