Strokes are serious medical emergencies that require immediate care. Prompt treatment can reduce damage to the brain and lessen other complications.
During a stroke, the blood supply to part of your brain is blocked or reduced, causing brain cells to die within minutes because they’re not getting the oxygen and nutrients they need.
How Common Are Strokes?
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America. It can occur at any age, but people over the age of 65 are at the highest risk. There’s also a nine-state region, known as the Stroke Belt (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee), recognized by public health officials for having a higher rate of stroke.
A stroke can happen to anyone, at any age. But it’s important to note that smoking and high blood pressure cause half of all strokes. Things that increase your risk of stroke include:
- Tobacco use
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being 65 or older
- Stroke Symptoms
Experts have come up with the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T. to help you spot symptoms of a stroke. Here’s what to look for:
B – Balance. Loss of balance
E – Eyes. Blurred vision or loss of vision
F – Face. Weakness on one side of the face
A – Arm. Weakness of an arm
S – Speech. Difficulty speaking
T – Time. Time to call 9-1-1 if any of these symptoms occur
Types of Stroke and How They Are Treated
Treatment for stroke can look different depending on the type of stroke and how much damage has occurred. There are three main types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke. This is by far the most common type of stroke. It occurs when arteries that lead to the brain become blocked. Sometimes the blockages are caused by blood clots, called a thrombus.
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA). This is sometimes called a “mini-stroke” because blood flow to the brain is only impaired for a short amount of time — usually less than five minutes. TIAs still require immediate medical care and are typically a warning sign that another stroke will occur.
- Hemorrhagic stroke. These are the deadliest, and thankfully most rare, type of stroke. They occur when an artery breaks and leaks blood into the brain. The blood puts too much pressure on the surrounding brain tissue and damages the brain cells.
The Emory Stroke Center offers a full menu of options for stroke treatment. The treatment you receive is largely determined by the type of stroke you have.
- Ischemic stroke. If you’ve had an ischemic stroke, medicine to break up blood clots can be given if you’re seen within 4 ½ hours of the event. Sometimes surgery to remove the blood clot (thrombectomy) may be needed.
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA). With TIAs, blood flow will have already resumed by the time you get to the hospital. In these instances, your emergency physician will likely evaluate what caused your stroke and may prescribe medication to prevent future blood clots and/or perform a medical intervention to clear your affected arteries.
- Hemorrhagic stroke. Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke focuses on stopping the bleeding and saving brain tissue. This might be achieved using medicine, surgery, or a combination of medical procedures.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you will likely need rehabilitation to recover after your stroke. Your doctor will also make healthy lifestyle recommendations to lessen your risk for another stroke in the future.
Once you’ve had a stroke, your chances of another are significantly higher. It’s imperative to treat the underlying causes of stroke, including heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Lifestyle choices, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking, will also help lessen your risk for a future stroke.
Emory Stroke Center
At Emory Stroke Center, our team makes sure you get the right care at every stage of treatment — from the first stroke symptom through recovery. Emory Stroke Centers have dedicated stroke teams with fully equipped emergency departments for rapid diagnosis and treatment. Each emergency department has 24/7 neurology coverage and access to a multidisciplinary medical team to provide quality stroke care. Our stroke centers are located at Emory University Hospital, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Emory Decatur Hospital, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and Emory University Hospital Midtown.
Learn more about Emory Stroke Center’s full-service stroke program at emoryhealthcare.org/stroke.
Emory Brain Health Center
The Emory Brain Health Center uniquely integrates neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, rehabilitation medicine, and sleep medicine, and transforms patient-centered care for brain and spinal cord conditions through research and discovery.
Bringing these specialties together allows more than 400 researchers and clinicians from different areas to collaborate to predict, prevent, treat or cure devastating diseases and disorders of the brain more rapidly. These collaborations are demonstrated in numerous centers and programs across the Brain Health Center, including the Epilepsy Center, Pituitary Center, Stroke Center, Treatment-Resistant Depression Program, and Veterans Program.
Emory’s multidisciplinary approach is transforming the world’s understanding of the vast frontiers of the brain, harnessing imagination and discovery to address 21st century challenges.
Learn more about comprehensive, diagnostic and innovative treatment options at the Emory Brain Health Center.
Updated April 2023