what is stroke

What is a Stroke

A stroke is any interruption in blood flow to the brain. This includes blockages cause by clots in a blood vessel or when a vessel bursts and blood leaks into the brain tissue causing damage. Without quick restoration of proper blood flow brain cells may die and permanent damage may occur.

About 80% of strokes are ischemic, which means they are caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain due to a blood clot. The buildup of plaque (fatty materials, calcium and scar tissue) is involved in most ischemic strokes – narrowing the arteries that supply blood to the brain, interfering with, or blocking the flow of blood. This “narrowing” is called atherosclerosis

What is TIA?

A TIA, or Transient Ischemic Attack – which is also known as a “mini-stroke” – is caused by a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain. The symptoms (warning signs) are similar to an ischemic stroke except they go away within a few minutes or hours. Many people can have a TIA without even knowing it. A TIA is an important warning sign that puts you at increased risk of a full-blown stroke.

Stroke cause by blood clots

As we get older, a waxy plaque can build up along the inside of the arteries that feed the brain. Plaque is like the gunk that builds up in the pipes underneath your sink: the thicker it grows, the less room there is for the blood to flow. Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can cause this buildup.

Sometimes, a blood clot can plug an artery narrowed with plaque. This can cut off the flow of blood. A blood clot that causes a stroke can form in the artery where there is a lot of plaque or the blood clot may form someplace else in the body. Sometimes, a blood clot forms in the heart and travels to the brain.

If you have a stroke caused by a blood clot, here are some terms your doctor may use:


When a blood clot blocks an artery and cuts off the flow of blood to a part of the brain this is called an ischemic stroke. 


The buildup of a thick, rough plaque on the inner walls of an artery. The causes  inside of the artery to narrow and less blood can flow through. 


When a blood clot forms over a buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis) inside an artery. The blood clot is called a thrombus and the thick, rough, fatty plaque is referred to as atheroma (plaque). 

Strokes caused by bleeding

Strokes can also be caused by breaks in the blood vessels in the brain. When the blood vessel bursts, blood rushes into the brain and damages it. This kind of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke. High blood pressure can cause this type of bleeding stroke. If you have a stroke caused by a bleeding, here are some terms your doctor may use:

When the wall of a blood vessel is weak and balloons out. Aneurysms can be caused by disease or injury to a blood vessel, or you can be born with them. If the aneurysm bursts, it can cause a bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke.
Intracerebral hemorrhage
A stroke caused when an artery within the brain breaks (ruptures) and blood enters the brain.
Arteriovenous malformations or AVM
In some people, some of the tiny blood vessels within the brain, brainstem or spinal cord are not formed properly (they are malformed). If these tiny blood vessels break or rupture, it can cause a bleeding stroke.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage

A stroke caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain, in the area between the brain and the skull.

Most strokes are caused by blood clots or bleeding. In a few people, the flow of blood through an artery can be interrupted by a growth (such as a tumour), infection or swelling of the brain (edema).

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