What is a stroke?

A stroke — or brain attack — is a medical emergency caused by a disruption in the blood supply to brain tissue. When that delivery is interrupted because blood is escaping from a ruptured vessel in the brain, the stroke is described as a hemorrhagic stroke.

About 80 per cent of strokes are caused by blockages of arteries – either in the neck or within the brain. They’re referred to as ischemic strokes.

Stroke symptoms occur during a transient ischemic attack (TIA) because a blood vessel is temporarily blocked. Although there is no permanent damage, TIAs should be regarded as a warning that a major stroke is coming.

Warning signs of stroke
If any of the following symptoms occur, see a doctor right away. A stroke is a medical emergency.

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body
  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
  • Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech
  • Sudden, severe headaches, with no apparent cause
  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness, or sudden falls, especially along with any of the previous symptoms

Ifny of the above symptoms occur but have no lasting effect, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) – a mini-stroke may have occurred. A stroke may occur in the next hours or days. See a doctor immediately.

*From The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s Canadian Family Guide to Stroke (Random House Canada)