What is a Stroke or Cerebrovascular Incident (CVA)?

Stroke is a leading cause of death and long term disability in the United States. About 795,000 new strokes are reported per year.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. During a stroke, brain cells begin to die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need. A stroke may be classified as either hemorrhagic or ischemic. The primary goal is treating an acute ischemic stroke is restoring blood flow to the brain with clot-busting drugs. The primary goal in treating in an hemorrhagic stroke is surgical correction to ruptured blood vessel.

Symptoms of a stroke may include sudden numbness or weakness, sudden confusion or trouble speaking, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking or loss of balance, sudden severe headache with no known cause. If you believe you or someone is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Getting treatment within 60 minutes can prevent disability.

Treatment of after a stroke / CVA requires an interdisciplinary approach, a client may be under the care of the following

  • Emergency Room and Hospital Physicians at onset
  • Primary Care Physician
  • Neurologist
  • Nursing
  • Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists
  • Social Workers and Case Managers
  • Other specialists, such as hematologist or podiatrist
There are a few types of cerebrovascular incidents (CVAs) or strokes;

  • Ischemic strokes are most common and account for 87% of all cases. Ischemic strokes occur from an obstruction within a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain.
  • Hemorrhagic strokes are less common in stroke cases. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. A blood vessel may be weakened by aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). The most common cause of this type of stroke is uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), often termed a ‘mini stroke’, is caused by a temporary clot.
The brain is a complex organ that controls various bodily functions, therefore effects if a stroke depends on both the location and severity.

  • If a stroke occurs on the right side of the brain, then paralysis and abnormal tone will be found on the left side. There can also be vision problems, impulsive behavioral issues, and memory loss.
  • If a stroke occurs on the left side of the brain, then paralysis and abnormal tone will be found on the right side. There can also be speech & language problems, slowed behavior, and memory loss.
  • If a stroke occurs in the brain stem, both sides of the body will be affected. Some clients may have “locked-in” syndrome where they are unable to speak or move below the neck.
Although many risk factors for stroke are out of our control, several can be kept in line through proper nutrition and medical care. Risk factors for stroke include the following:

  • Age over 55
  • A family history of stroke
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Cigarette Smoking
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Obesity
  • Cocaine Use
  • Presence of cardiovascular disease
  • Previous strokes or TIAs
  • Heavy Alcohol Use
  • High Stress Levels
  • Birth Control use or other Hormone Therapies
  • High Levels of homocysteine (an amino acid in blood)