Health Q&a

June 03, 2002|by CHRISTINE L. MOATS

Q: What is a stroke?

A: A stroke occurs when blood flow to any part of the brain is obstructed. Blood is the fuel or energy for our brains as food is for our bodies. If the obstruction continues for several minutes, the injury to the brain becomes permanent and the tissue in that area dies.

The loss or change in bodily function is a result of the loss of blood flow to the brain.

There are two types of stroke. An ischemic stroke happens when there is a blockage within a vessel in the brain.

The blockage occurs due to fatty deposits that build up on the lining of the vessel walls otherwise known as atherosclerosis.


Ischemic strokes account for 80 percent of all strokes.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weak blood vessel ruptures.

There are two types of weakened blood vessels, an aneurysm and an arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

An aneurysm occurs when the weakened area of a vessel begins to balloon out and continues to weaken. If it is not suspected or treated, it will rupture and bleed into the brain.

An AVM is a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels. Any of these vessels can rupture, leading to bleeding into the brain.

Hemorrhagic strokes account for 20 percent of all strokes.

Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, and consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

Q: What are the warning signs of a stroke?

A: According to the American Stroke Association, if you notice one or more of these signs in another person or yourself, don't wait. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services number immediately and get the person to ahospital right away. Treatment can be more effective if given quickly. Every second counts.

Not all signs of stroke occur in every person. Sometimes they go away and return. If any of these happen, get help fast. These signs of a stroke can occur suddenly:

-- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;

-- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;

-- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes;

-- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;

-- Severe headache with no known cause.

For more information on strokes and their symptoms, check out the American Stroke Association web site at

Christine L. Moats is wellness coordinator for Washington County Hospital.

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