What is Stroke?

If you think someone may be having a stroke, remember FAST:

FACE. Ask them to smile. Check to see if one side of the face droops.
ARMS. Ask the person to raise their arms. See if one arm drifts downward.
SPEECH. Ask the person to repeat a basic sentence. Look for slurred speech and correct repetition.
TIME. If a person shows any of these symptoms, do not wait. Get the person to a hospital as quickly as possible. Act FAST and call 911.

DO NOT wait for the symptoms to just go away.

Every minute counts because blood is not getting to the places in the brain that need it, and this can cause brain cells to die.

A stroke is also called a brain attack, or in more mild circumstances, a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Generally, speaking, a stroke is a sudden interruption in the blood supply. An ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, is caused by a blockage of an artery that stops oxygen from getting to a certain part of the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes, on the other hand, are caused by burst blood vessels that cause bleeding into the surrounding brain tissue. When the main symptoms of a stroke last for less than an hour, this is called a transient ischemic attack or a mini stroke.

The effects of a stroke depend on what part of the brain is starved of blood as well as how severely the area is affected. At the time of the stroke, there may be muscle weakness (especially on one side of the body) loss of feeling, or difficulty with speaking or understanding what others are saying to you. Often, the symptoms that are most severe at the time of the stroke (i.e., speaking ability) remain difficult after the person recovers from the most severe immediate effects of the stroke. In this example, the person may have continued difficulties with speech, but it will slowly improve with time and properly guided rehabilitation.

Common symptoms in the weeks and months after a stroke include:

  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty coming up with the right word or understanding others
  • Attention or problem-solving difficulties
  • Blurred vision or ringing in the ears
  • Mood changes or irritability
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Changes in judgment
  • Agitation or combativeness
  • Slurring of speech
  • Loss of physical coordination

Neuropsychological testing offers the best starting point for designing a rehabilitation plan for individuals who have had a stroke.

Because this neuropsychological testing such a wide variety of areas of brain functioning, personalized treatment plans can be designed to help the person regain lost functions. In later stages of recovery, when the person’s brain has nearly healed, strategies can be developed to help the person compensate for remaining difficulties.