Understanding Stroke


What Is A Stroke?

A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, depriving brain cells of oxygen, killing them. When brain cells die the abilities controlled by that area of the brain are affected, such as speech, hearing and muscle control.


stroke images


There are two main ways that a stroke can happen

  1. There is a blood clot or a buildup of plaque in the brain which blocks a blood vessel causing a stroke
  2. A blood vessel in the brain ruptures causing a stroke


Blocked Blood Vessel (ischemic Stroke)

A stroke caused by a blockage or build up of plaque is called an ischemic stroke


ischaemic stroke


Although blood clotting is generally a good thing, in-fact it can save your life by stopping bleeding; when it comes to strokes blood clots can be life threatening. They can block arteries and completely cut off blood flow.


An ischemic stroke can occur in two ways

Embolic Stroke

A blood clot forms somewhere in your body and travels through the blood stream into the brain, when the blood clot tries to travel through an artery which is too small it will become lodged there and stop the blood from getting through. This is an embolic stroke.


Thrombotic Stroke

As blood flows through the arteries it may leave behind plaques (usually caused by high cholesterol) that stick to the walls of the artery. These plaques build up, eventually narrowing or blocking the artery and stopping the blood getting through. 

In a thrombotic stroke the arteries affected are generally those in the neck, responsible for delivering blood to the brain.


Bleed in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke)

A stroke caused by a broken blood vessel in the brain is called a hemorrhagic stroke.


hemorrhagic stroke


When a blood vessel breaks it leaks blood into the brain stopping the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients. There are a number of disorders which can cause a hemorrhagic stroke including high blood pressure and cerebral aneurysms.

An aneurysm is a weak spot in the wall of a blood vessel which balloons out, as the aneurysm gets bigger it can burst leaking blood into the brain


There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke.

Hemorrhagic strokes are labeled by their location in the brain. 


Intracerebral hemorrhage 

Occurs when an artery inside the brain ruptures and blood leaks into the brain. The most common cause of this type of stroke is high blood pressure (hypertension)


Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH)

Occurs when there is bleeding on the surface of the brain. The brain is covered by three layers of membrane (meninges). A subarachnoid hemorrhage is a bleed between the first layer (closest to the brain) and the second layer.



The Mini Stroke -Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack is sometimes called a mini stroke or minor stroke. This term is used when the symptoms of stroke are present but disappear quickly.

A TIA episode generally lasts a few minutes but can last several hours before all symptoms disappear. Because the symptoms disappear people tend to ignore TIA’s, but just like a stroke the TIA requires emergency treatment.


Never ignore a TIA. About 1 in 5 people who have experienced a TIA will have a major stroke within the next 3 months.


     The Effects Of A Stroke

The effects of a stroke differ for everyone depending on the:

• Location of the stroke

• The size of the stroke

• Your general health

• How quickly you received emergency care


Some Common Stroke Signs And Symptoms

stroke F.A.C.E

• Weakness on one side of the body 

• Problems coordinating or controlling movements

• Problems with sight, smell, touch, taste or hearing

• Problems with reading, writing, speaking and understanding what others are saying

• Memory and thinking problems

• Difficulty swallowing

• Problems with vision and perception

• Difficulties controlling bowel movements and poor bladder control

• May feel frustration, anger, loss, grief and depression

• Feelings of fatigue – exhaustion, weariness, being too tired to do things 

• Loss of appetite

• Problems with personality and behavior


Stroke Risk Factors

1. Risk Factors Out Of Your Control

• Age – your risk of stroke increases with age

• Gender – stroke is more common in men

• A history of stroke in the family


2. Medical stroke risk factors

• Irregular Pulse (Atrial Fibrillation)


• Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)

Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD)


3. Risk factors you can control

High blood pressure 

This is the highest known risk factor for stroke. Long term high blood pressure can damage the walls of blood vessels which may cause a buildup of plaque leading to stroke.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia /dyslipidemia) – contributes to blood vessel disease, which often leads to stroke.


Smoking increases blood pressure and decreases oxygen in the blood, it has over 4000 toxic chemicals which are absorbed into your blood stream which can cause atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries) and make your blood more sticky, increasing the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries to the brain and heart.

Obesity or being overweight 

Being overweight or obese can contribute to type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and may increase the risk of stroke. 

Poor diet and lack of exercise

Eat a balanced diet and have a moderate activity level (30 -40 minutes of exercise 3 or 4 times a week) 

People who have good general health and maintain a healthy body weight are less likely to have a stroke. 

Drinking too much alcohol

Alcohol and stroke: If you drink more than six standard drinks a day your chance of stroke increases 


How To Lower Your Risk Of Stroke

1. Keep an eye on your blood pressure:  A good blood pressure lowers the risk of stroke
2. Eat Healthy: Eat a good variety of foods including plant based foods, legumes, wholegrain breads, fruit and vegetables and cereals.
3. Lower Salt Intake: Eat less take away food and don’t add salt when cooking
4. Alcohol: Drink no more than two standard drinks per day

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