What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a severe neurological injury caused by a blockage in one of the brain’s arteries or veins or by a bleed within either of these two structures that supply blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the tissue. It is is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. 


When blood, oxygen, or nutrients are blocked or leaked from the brain tissue, it causes the brain tissue to become damaged or die. When brain tissue is damaged or dead, cognitive and physical functions are lost. When someone has a stroke, they may have difficulty:


  • Walking
  • Speaking 
  • Thinking & remembering
  • Controlling their emotions
  • Making decisions
  • Eating & drinking
  • Picking up objects 

What are the Symptoms of a Stroke

How can one determine the signs of a stroke? Just remember the word FAST. 

F: Facial WeaknessAsk the person to smile, see one side of their face droops.

A: Arm WeaknessAsk the person to raise both arms. Check if one arm is unable to rise or one arm drifts downwards.

S: Speech ProblemsAsk the person to repeat something simple like, “The sky is blue.” Check if their speech is slurred or abnormal.

T: Time to call 9-1-1 – If you have observed any of these signs, it is time to call 9-1-1. Remember that call could save a life.

Additional Symptoms 

Acting FAST is the best way possible to help save the life of someone suffering through a stroke. There are more identifying symptoms to help recognize when one is going through a stroke. Some of the other symptoms to look out for include:


  • Sudden weakness on one side of the body.
  • Difficulty finding words or slurred speech. 
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion.
  • Sudden dizziness or a sudden fall.
  • A sudden, severe headache. 


When one thinks of cognitive impairment they often associate it with memory loss or dementia. Cognitive impairment brings challenges in thinking, solving problems, and communication skills. A stroke can cause a lot of damage to one’s communication, raising one’s cognitive impairment. Even problem-solving abilities can be strongly affected often more times in survivors of right-brain stroke. 

What are Some Potential Long-Term Symptoms?

People who have had a stroke may experience personality changes, depression, anxiety, and stress due to having a stroke. Having a stroke can be a very traumatic experience, as strokes can be strongly debilitating or fatal. People may also experience pain in a specific area of their body, such as an arm or a leg, as neural connections between the brain and muscles can be damaged. Lastly, certain senses may be compromised, such as taste or vision, depending on where the lesion is located in the brain.

Are there different kinds of strokes?

Yes. There are three common types of strokes that someone may have:

Ischemic stroke

Ischemic strokes occur when a clot occurs within the brain’s arteries or veins that causes blood flow to stop reaching the brain tissue. The clot can form when a blood vessel gets blocked, which then causes reduced blood flow, allowing for the build-up of fatty deposits. These fatty deposits form into blood clots which have the potential to drift into one’s brain. If that occurs, blood, oxygen, and nutrients are denied from reaching the brain tissue, causing the tissue to be damaged or die. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke, with around 87% of all strokes being one.  Recently studies have found that there might be a link between being infected with COVID-19 and ischemic strokes.

Hemorrhagic stroke

In a similar way to ischemic strokes, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel from the brain ruptures or begins to leak. Many factors cause a hemorrhagic, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, aneurysms, trauma, protein deports, and even ischemic. The rupture of an abnormal tangle of the arteriovenous malformation, a thin blood vessel, is another less common way to cause a brain bleed. Over 750,000 people experience a hemorrhagic stroke each year.

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)

A TIA, also known as a ministroke, is when one faces symptoms similar to a stroke in a temporary period of time. These ministrokes do not cause permanent damage but instead leave victims facing symptoms for around five minutes. It is related to an ischemic stroke because a TIA occurrs when one experiences reduced blood flow to part of their nervous system caused by a clot of debris. It is important to note that you need to seek emergency care even when your TIA symptoms worsen. It is impossible to self-diagnose the difference between a TIA and a stroke, which is why it is crucial to call your doctor or emergency care provider. When a TIA goes untreated, it often can increase the risk of having a full stroke near in the future.

What can cause someone to have a stroke?

person smoking a cigarette is at risk of having a stroke

There are many causes of stroke. Some factors are preventable, while others may not be. Preventable risk factors include:

Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • Gaining weight, becoming overweight or obese
  • Inability to complete physical activity
  • Heavy drinking
  • Use of illegal drugs
    • Commonly cocaine and methamphetamine

Medical Risk Factors

Associated Risk Factors

Other factors are inherent and cannot be changed. Some factors that are not preventable include:


Can You Prevent One?

There are many things one can do to prevent a stroke. Some actions anyone can take today to prevent one are:

  • Quitting smoking (if currently smoking)
  • Avoid the use of drugs
  • Moderate alcohol consumption
  • Make healthy food choices. Choose foods that are nutrient-dense, not processed, low in sugar, salt, and consist of healthy fats rather than saturated and trans fats. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your age, sex, and height
  • Drink enough water throughout the day
  • Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine

Treatment Options?


After a stroke, people may engage in a variety of therapies. If someone has aphasia, or trouble producing and understanding language, they may work with a speech-language pathologist. If someone is looking to get back to work or school, as well as advocate for accommodations, they will work with an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists may also provide cognitive rehabilitation activities for their clients with stroke to help them learn the foundations of cognitive skills needed for everyday life. Psychologists may also do this but typically work with patients on coping strategies to help them adjust to life after and help them tackle post-stroke depression.


Often, people who have had a stroke also have physical difficulties. Patients with stroke may work with a physical therapist to build strength, endurance, and balance. Many people who have had a stroke have difficulty using both arms and both legs in everyday life. By working with physical therapists, patients with stroke may be able to learn ways to move more efficiently without expending as much energy. Someone with a stroke may also choose to work with a personal trainer who specializes in working with neurological populations.