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Stroke, also called brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. Disruption in blood flow is caused when either a blood clot or piece of plaque blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain (ischemic stroke), or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into surrounding tissues (hemorrhagic stroke).
The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to function. Even a brief interruption in blood supply can cause problems. Brain cells begin to die after just a few minutes without blood or oxygen. The area of dead cells in tissues is called an infarct. Due to both the physical and chemical changes that occur in the brain with stroke, damage can continue to occur for several days. This is called a stroke-in-evolution and requires close observation.
A loss of brain function occurs with brain cell death. This may include impaired ability with movement, speech, thinking and memory, bowel and bladder, eating, emotional control, and other vital body functions. Recovery from stroke and the specific ability affected depends on the size and location of the stroke. A small stroke may result in problems such as weakness in an arm or leg. Larger strokes may cause paralysis (inability to move part of the body), loss of speech, or even death.
According to the National Stroke Association, it is important to learn the 3 Rs of stroke:
Stroke is an emergency and should be treated as such. The greatest chance for recovery from stroke occurs when emergency treatment is started immediately.
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The effects of stroke (brain attack) vary from person to person based on the type, severity, location, and number of strokes. The brain is extremely complex and each area of the brain is responsible for a special function or ability. When an area of the brain is damaged, which typically occurs with a stroke, an impairment may result. An impairment is the loss of normal function of part of the body. Sometimes, an impairment may result in a disability, or inability to perform an activity in a normal way.
The brain is divided into 3 main areas:
Depending on which of these regions of the brain the stroke occurs, the effects may be very different.
The cerebrum is the part of the brain that occupies the top and front portions of the skull. It is responsible for control of abilities, such as movement and sensation, speech, thinking, reasoning, memory, vision, and regulation of emotions. The cerebrum is divided into the right and left sides, or hemispheres.
Depending on the area and side of the cerebrum affected by the stroke, any, or all, of the following body functions may be impaired:
In addition to these general effects, some specific impairments may occur when a particular area of the cerebrum is damaged.
The effects of a right hemisphere stroke may include the following:
The effects of a left hemisphere stroke may include the following:
The cerebellum is located beneath and behind the cerebrum towards the back of the skull. It receives sensory information from the body through the spinal cord and helps to coordinate muscle action and control, fine movement, coordination, and balance.
Although strokes are less common in the cerebellum area, the effects can be severe. Four common effects of strokes in the cerebellum include:
The brain stem is located at the very base of the brain right above the spinal cord. Many of the body's vital "life-support" functions such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing are controlled by the brain stem. It also helps to control the main nerves involved with eye movement, hearing, speech, chewing, and swallowing. Some common effects of a stroke in the brain stem include problems with the following:
Unfortunately, death is possible with brain stem strokes.