What You Need to Know About Strokes

Doctor Q&A

As the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, strokes are no joke. While strokes, or cerebrovascular accidents (CVA, for short), are often mentioned alongside heart attacks, they actually attack the brain. A stroke happens when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, depriving brain cells of the oxygen they need to survive. When brain cells die during a stroke, a person loses functionality controlled by that area of the brain—sometimes permanently.

Although CVA is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable through lifestyle management and education. Because they can happen at any age, it’s important to understand how to identify the warning signs and what to expect after one has occurred. Here are some of the most common questions patients and their families ask after experiencing a stroke.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

The American Heart Association promotes public awareness of the most common signs of a CVA through the acronym FAST: Facial droop, Arm weakness, Slurred speech and noting the Time of onset. Other common symptoms may include weakness or numbness on one side of the body, sudden vision loss or changes, vertigo or headache.

Are stroke victims aware they’re having a stroke?

While patients may realize there is something wrong, often times family or friends are more aware of sudden changes in speech patterns, instability or appearance of a confused state.

Why is a stroke a medical emergency?

As with heart attacks, where the heart muscle can be damaged from prolonged lack of blood flow, the brain may result in permanent injury or death if the diagnosis or visit to a medical professional is delayed.

Will a stroke show up on a CT scan or MRI?

A CT, or “cat scan,” is often the first test to look for major changes since it’s quick to complete and available in most hospitals. Sometimes, however, an MRI is required for more information or to confirm a stroke. This is not often the first test due to additional time and resources required, and some patients may not be candidates due to presence of metal objects in the body or poor kidney function.

What are the most common side effects of a stroke?

Because a stroke involves brain cells dying off, physical complications are often a side effect of stroke. Depending on where the stroke occurred in the brain, a patient may experience paralysis. Sometimes, the full extent of defects can improve, or maybe fully resolve, through rehabilitation exercises.

Other side effects include sensory issues like impaired vision, inability to taste, a tingling or numbing sensation or memory impairment.

An untreated stroke may result in permanent damage; in some cases, this means inability to speak, walk or take care of oneself independently.

Will stroke pain / numbness ever go away?

Sometimes the effects of milder strokes may take weeks or months to recover from, or they may be permanent. Advances in rehabilitation services have made tremendous impacts in recovery. Rehab efforts may take weeks or months in a formal setting, and may sometimes require additional efforts in an outpatient setting for years.

Stroke care at AdventHealth

With locations throughout Kansas City, AdventHealth provides quality stroke care that’s close to home. Our Stroke Program earned the Gold Seal of Approval™ from the Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers. Our innovative procedures are designed to get patients back to living the life they love with ease and comfort. Learn more about AdventHealth’s heart and vascular services.