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June – Stroke

June 1, 2017

June – Stroke

Why is Stroke Risk Reduction so Important?

Every year, over 50,000 Canadians have a stroke. Will you be one of them? Find out if you are at risk of stroke, how a stroke could affect your life, and what you can do to reduce your risk of a stroke. Learn more about strokes, stroke causes, whether you could be at risk of a stroke, and how to reduce your risk of stroke.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain. Without the oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood, brain cells begin to die. The longer blood flow is interrupted, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage and death.

There are two common types of stroke:

Type of stroke What happens
Ischemic stroke (80% of strokes) A blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Ischemic strokes may be:

  • thrombotic: A blood clot forms in a blood vessel in the brain and blocks it.
  • embolic: A blood clot forms in another part of the body (such as the heart), moves into the brain, and blocks a blood vessel.
Hemorrhagic stroke (20% of strokes) Blood vessels rupture in the brain, causing blood to leak out. The leaking blood and the interruption of normal blood flow damage the brain.

Depending on the part of the brain affected, strokes can affect your vision, mobility, thoughts, memory, and speech. See “How could a stroke affect my health and lifestyle?” to learn more.

Some people may have a “mini-stroke,” also called a TIA (transient ischemic attack). With a TIA, the blood flow to the brain is temporarily blocked. A TIA causes the same symptoms as a stroke, but the symptoms usually disappear within 24 hours. However, a TIA is still very serious because it could still cause brain damage, and because it is a warning that you are at risk of a stroke.

Am I at risk for a stroke?

Every 10 minutes on average, a Canadian has a stroke. Could you be next?

There are many things that increase your risk of a stroke (called stroke risk factors).

Some are things you can’t control:

  • age over 65
  • male gender (women are also at risk after menopause)
  • family history of stroke
  • First Nations, African, or South Asian ancestry
  • personal history of a stroke or TIA (“mini-stroke”)

Fortunately, there are also many things you may be able to control:

Lifestyle issues:

  • being overweight
  • drinking too much alcohol (more than 2 drinks per day or 10 drinks per week for women or more than 3 drinks per day or 15 drinks per week for men)
  • unhealthy diet (low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium)
  • lack of physical activity
  • smoking
  • stress

Medical conditions:

Some people may have other risk factors not listed here.

Learn more about understanding your stroke risk and how to reduce your risk of stroke.

What causes a stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted, usually in one of two ways:

1. A blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain.

This is called an ischemic stroke.

The blood clot may get into the brain by:

  • forming in a brain blood vessel (thrombotic stroke)
  • forming elsewhere in the body (such as the heart), and moving through the bloodstream to the brain (embolic stroke)


2. Blood vessels burst in the brain.

This is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Blood leaking into the brain and the interruption in blood flow both damage the brain.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

Stroke warning signs

Learn to recognize the warning signs of stroke. If you see them, respond immediately by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. It can significantly improve survival and recovery.

Weakness – Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.
Trouble speaking – Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary.
Vision problems -Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.
Headache – Sudden severe and unusual headache.
Dizziness – Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.

© Reproduced with the permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2011.

Print the stroke warning signs and put them on your fridge or in your wallet.

This list includes common stroke warning signs but is not a complete list of all possible warning signs. Some people may have additional warning signs not listed above.

How could a stroke affect my health and lifestyle?

The effects of a stroke vary from person to person: some people die, others recover completely, but many have effects that could last a lifetime.

Here’s what could happen to you after a stroke:

Death 15%
Very severe disability (you will need long-term care) 10%
Moderate-to-severe disability (you can function on your own but with difficulty) 40%
Mild disability (your disability is inconvenient but does not have a major impact on your life) 25%
Complete recovery 10%

A stroke can affect many different parts of your life, depending on the areas of the brain that were damaged:

Type of problem What could happen? How could this affect my life?
Physical problems You could have weakness or paralysis along one side of your body, painful muscle spasms, vision changes (double vision or “blind spots”), difficulty swallowing, constant pain, poor balance, or a loss of fine motor skills (the ability to make small, precise movements). It might be harder for you to get around and do your usual activities.
Mental challenges You could have trouble speaking, understanding speech, remembering recent events, or learning and remembering new information.

You could also have personality changes, poor judgment, and impulsive behaviour.

It could be harder for you to do your job and function day to day.
Emotional changes You may also feel frustrated, angry, depressed, or emotionally out of control. This could put a strain on your relationships.


Some of these problems may improve over time. Stroke rehabilitation can help people regain some of the function they have lost and live life to the fullest.


Ask Your Pharmacist

Question:  Should I take a daily aspirin to prevent stroke?


Answer:  Aspirin, otherwise known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), may be helpful for people at high risk, such as those who have already had a stroke. However, when mixed with other medications, aspirin may have serious side effects that could be harmful. If you’re thinking about taking aspirin, talk to your pharmacist or doctor first. If you do get the go-ahead to use aspirin, make sure you take it exactly as directed.

Do you have more questions? Speak with your Live Well Pharmacist.


Health Tip

Take some positive steps toward reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke by controlling your blood pressure. You can start by keeping your body moving. Adding moderate physical activity for 30 to 45 minutes most days of the week can sometimes reduce blood pressure as effectively as some medications.

All material © 1996-2013 MediResource Inc. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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