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Types of Stroke, Stroke Signals, and Stroke Prevention

The “in” term these days for strokes is brain attack. Ever wonder who makes these decisions? But the new term actually makes more sense. Just as a heart attack results in less blood and oxygen getting to the heart, so it is with a stroke, which cuts off blood supply from part of the brain. An artery might be clogged or a vessel tears, leaking the blood before and/or after it reaches the brain. How many brain cells are damaged and where those cells are located depend on what part of the brain didn't receive its blood supply.

Given the fact that the human brain has more functions than Carter has liver pills, and that any part can get a “sorry, we can't deliver” message, the ways in which strokes affect people are all over the map. A whole side can be paralyzed (usually the right), or just one part of the body such as an arm. Some people experience behavioral changes while some can't swallow, speak, write, or urinate. Even if the stroke was mild, if it affected a part of the brain that controls a major function, the result can be devastating.

Brain Attack Lingo

If your parent suffers a stroke, there are a number of terms you'll hear and there are different kinds of strokes. Here's what you ought to know.

Senior Alert

A major study of 30,000 older people who suffered a stroke showed that patients who were seen by a neurologist within the first 72 hours had a much better recovery and survival rate than those who did not. Be sure to ask that a neurologist examine your parent right away.


TIA stands for transient ischemic (pronounced isschemic) attack. You may hear it referred to as a “mini-stroke,” but your doctor will probably call it a TIA. It comes on suddenly and usually lasts from two to 30 minutes. There is a temporary deficiency in the brain's blood supply. The symptoms are similar to a stroke but they are temporary and reversible. So your dad might get dizzy, might not be able to see, and might experience slurred speech for about three minutes and then return back to normal. This is a warning sign. Just because a TIA appeared out of the clear blue sky and then disappeared doesn't mean he's in the clear. About one third of all strokes are preceded by a TIA and about half will hit within the year. So make sure your dad sees a doctor. There are plenty of ways to prevent a stroke. Don't let it go!

Ischemic Stroke

With an ischemic stroke, an artery carrying blood to the brain is blocked, usually by fatty material. The lack of blood and oxygen damages the part of the brain that didn't get the goods—blood and oxygen.

More on: Aging Parents


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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