What is stroke?

Stroke, also called "brain attack," is one of the cardiovascular diseases. (Heart disease is another.) Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked or broken. The brain does not receive the oxygen it needs, and brain cells begin to die. This can happen in a matter of minutes. Strokes cause brain damage that may result in short-term or long-term problems with movement, speech, vision and memory. If untreated or severe, stroke can be fatal. It is important for someone having a stroke to get medical care quickly.

There are two major types of stroke:

  • An ischemic (is -kee -mic) stroke is caused by blood clots. This is the most common type of brain attack. When a blood clot blocks one of the blood vessels in the brain, blood flow is blocked. This leads to a lack of oxygen going to brain cells, a condition called ischemia.
  • A hemorrhagic (hem - o - raj - ik) stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into surrounding tissues.

To learn more:

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
NINDS is a research institute of the National Institutes of Health. The stated mission of NINDS is "to reduce the burden of neurological disease" by supporting research and educating the public about causes and prevention. Much of the information is for researchers, but the general public can find clear explanations of the various neurological disorders and conditions including stroke,as well as the latest research news, and other resources.
(National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)
This article from the Web site NIH Senior Health tells about stroke. Learn what it is, the warning signs and risk factors, prevention and diagnosis, and treatment and research. The site is designed for seniors, with large, easy-to-read print. You can also have it read to you by selecting the on button next to Speech in the top menu bar.

next » What causes a stroke?

Written by: Janice C. May, M.P.A.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Monday January 30, 2017 11:07 AM