What are Strokes and Why Do They Happen?

Strokes can affect anyone at anytime. There are risk factors for a stroke that can be tracked to see how much at risk you really are. To put to rest any fears you have that you could be the next stroke victim, keep reading to learn about what happens when you have a stroke and also why they occur.

A stroke occurs when an area of the brain is deprived of oxygen. The brain actually requires 20 percent more oxygen than other tissues in the body. Without oxygen, the brain tissue begins to die. Depending on the area of the brain that is affected by the stroke, a stroke victim may lose their sight, control of their voluntary muscles, hearing, sense of taste, language skills and memory. This covers a lot of ground but the brain controls various functions throughout your entire body.

What causes a stroke to occur in the first place? Strokes have two main causes: ischemia and hemorrhage. Ischemia refers to a lack of blood flow to an area. Hemorrhage is when there is an abundance of blood in one location.

Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain totally or partially. The blood flow is reduced and the brain doesn’t get the oxygen it needs. That part of the brain dies and you’ll see notable changes in behavior. This is the most common cause of a stroke.

Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by pressure on the brain tissue due to bleeding on the brain. This can happen when someone sustains a blow to the head in an accident. Subdural hematomas can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke. The blood will flow through the path of least resistance. It will fill the spaces between the skull and the brain, compressing the tissue and causing injury to the brain.

But, strokes don’t happen all at once. Very often there are warning signs that a stroke is in your future. These “warning signs” are called TIAs or transient ischemic attacks. Some people refer to them as mini strokes. For less than 24 hours, you may feel the effects of a stroke. The symptoms usually subside in 24 hours and you return to normal.

Who is at risk for a stroke? A family history of stroke may predispose you to that condition. You can’t do anything about your family history, but you can influence the other risks:

* Obesity
* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol
* Diabetes
* Smoking
* Heart disease
* Oral contraceptives (increases risk of blood clots especially in combination with smoking)

Are you at risk for a stroke? Now that you know what a stroke is and why it happens, you can work to reduce your risk factors for this debilitating condition.

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