What Is a Stroke?

Stroke, which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., happens when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke) or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Because the brain is not getting the blood and oxygen it needs to function, it begins to die.

While a stroke is also known as a “brain attack,” it is often discussed in conjunction with cardiovascular conditions because it affects the arteries. The field is known as vascular neurology.

Heart attack and stroke share many risk factors, including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, high cholesterol, high-fat diet, obesity and lack of exercise.  

Treatment Options for Stroke

When a person has a stroke, time is critical. For every minute that passes after the stroke, a person’s risk of brain damage increases due to the lack of blood and oxygen getting to the brain.

The goal is to get treatment from a vascular neurologist within three hours of the onset of symptoms —not from the time a patient enters the emergency room. By getting stroke treatment quickly, there is a greater chance of limiting or preventing the disability that results from damaged brain cells.

For patients suffering from an ischemic stroke—meaning a blood clot is preventing blood from getting to the brain—the FDA-approved “clot-busting” drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) may be administered intravenously. Ischemic strokes account for about 87 percent of strokes.

For those with a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke), treatment is based on the underlying cause of the hemorrhage and the extent of damage to the brain. Either surgery may be performed or medication given.

Stroke recovery varies by individual. If stroke treatment wasn’t administered quickly enough, recovery can take longer. Stroke recovery usually begins with rehabilitation to help improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional abilities. When formal rehabilitation is complete, stroke recovery remains a lifelong process, but the good news is that there is hope for people who’ve suffered a stroke.

Remember: TIME IS BRAIN! For every minute that passes after a stroke, 1.9 million brain cells die.

Know the Warning Signs of Stroke

Speed is critical when stroke strikes. If you or someone you love is experiencing the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately so you can be taken to the nearest stroke center.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body 
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Source: American Stroke Association

Why Parrish Medical Center

Parrish Medical Center was Brevard's first hospital—and only the third medical center in the state—to be certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, which is the nation's leading healthcare evaluation and accreditation organization.

As a primary stroke center, PMC has received the commission's Gold Seal Certification.  Being treated at a certified primary stroke center gives patients confidence they are receiving expert care. PMC has specially trained nurses and physicians to recognize and care for stroke patients. In 2010, PMC collaborated with Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to provide rapid assessment of potential stroke patients with the use of telemedicine and neurologists using a remote-controlled robot.

In addition to its advanced stroke treatment options, PMC also offers preventive care. In fact, Parrish Medical Center now offers one simple test that allows you to find out if you have an underlying risk for stroke or heart attack. The PLAC Test is the only FDA-approved blood test that helps assess risk for both coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke associated with atherosclerosis (plaque buildup). The PLAC Test is available at all Parrish Direct Access Testing locations.

And for those who have suffered a stroke, PMC offers a free monthly support group.