Stroke is a brain attack

Source: National Stroke Association Brochure "Stroke is a Brain Attack"
© National Stroke Association, 1994

Brain Attack!

Stroke is a "brain attack," cutting off vital supplies of blood and oxygen to the brain cells that control everything we do--from speaking, to walking, to breathing. A stroke happens when an artery leading to or in the brain becomes blocked or ruptures. These arteries can be blocked by blood clots (formed in the heart or elsewhere in the body) or by the gradual build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits. Brain arteries can rupture when weak spots on the blood vessel wall break.

Stroke is our nation's third leading killer and the primary cause of adult disability. Every year, stroke strikes nearly 550,000 Americans--killing 150,000 and forever changing the lives of the 400,000 who survive.

National Stroke Association is now using a new term to describe stroke -- "Brain Attack" -- which tells us:

Why Stroke is an Emergency

For someone who is having a stroke, emergency medical treatment could make all the difference between life and death...the difference between brain cells that can be saved and brain cells that never recover..the difference between recovery and lifelong impairment.

For every minute that brain cells are deprived of oxygen and die during stroke, brain damage increases and injures more of the brain. Recent medical research tells us that when a stroke happens, brain cells in the area of the stroke aren't the only ones in danger. Through a process called secondary injury, dying brain cells set off a "chain reaction" of electrical and chemical events. These events endanger -- and can kill -- brain cells in a much larger, surrounding area. As a result, the abilities or functions once controlled by these brain cells -- such as speech and movement -- are impaired or lost.

The sooner medical treatment starts after stroke symptoms begin, the better the chances for survival and successful rehabilitation and recovery.

Stroke Treatment Today

It's critical for someone who experiences stroke symptoms to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Once there, doctors can act rapidly to evaluate the stroke and determine the best, most effective treatment.

At the hospital, doctors will confirm the diagnosis of stroke and perform tests -- such as a CT scan -- to learn the stroke's size, location, and cause. This is important because medical and surgical treatment options will vary depending on whether the stroke resulted from a blocked artery or a hemorrhage.

The sooner someone with stroke symptoms gets to the hospital, the sooner doctors can begin appropriate treatment.

Hope on the Horizon

Medical researchers and stroke specialists believe that we are very close to having breakthrough treatments which will "stop a stroke in its tracks." Several promising drugs are now being tested to determine their potential effectiveness. These drugs fall into two categories: "clot-busters" and "brain-saving" neuroprotective agents. "Clot-busters" are used to rapidly dissolve stroke-causing blood clots and limit brain damage by restoring the free flow of blood. Neuroprotective agents disrupt the processes that kill previously-healthy brain cells in the area surrounding the stroke.

Stroke Research - In Your Community

Hospitals and doctors in your community are taking part in a national effort to test promising new drugs for emergency stroke treatment. This means stroke patients in your community have a unique opportunity to receive potentially life-saving -- and brain-saving -- treatment.

In order to participate in this vital research, persons with stroke symptoms must get to the hospital immediately after symptoms begin. Stroke patients who delay cannot take part. Every minute counts!

Know the Symptoms of Stroke!

It's important to learn and recognize the symptoms of stroke--not only for yourself, but because you may see them in someone else who doesn't understand their significance.

The faster you recognize stroke symptoms, the sooner you can get to the hospital and receive treatment. This is even more critical because of the stroke treatment research available in your community.

If you experience any of the following symptoms--or recognize them in someone else--call 911 immediately!

Stroke is an Emergency ... Call 911

If you experience any of these symptoms or recognize them in someone else, call 911 -- even if the symptoms only last for a short time.

Stroke is an emergency! Don't delay -- call 911 immediately!

Contact National Stroke Association for more information on:

NSA and Stroke Data


Acute Care


Survivor & Caregiver Resources


National Stroke Association (NSA)
8480 East Orchard Road, Suite 1000
Englewood, CO 80111-5015
(303) 771-1700
FAX (303) 771-1886
TDD (303) 771-1887
1-800-STROKES (1-800-787-6537)

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Page Last Updated: Tuesday, January 1, 2013