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It’s safe to say that the brain is one of the most (if not the most) important organ in your body. It not only controls everything that happens to the body, but it houses your memories, ideas, personality, and experiences that go together to make you who you are.

Your brain is made up of approximately 100 billion cells, each of whom is dependent on the unending circulation of blood. These cells are continuously working and require the oxygen and nutrients that get delivered by the blood. When that blood flow is interrupted or reduced, as is the case during a stroke, the cells are unable to effectively operate, and the end up dying.

It is possible to fully recover from some types of strokes, but other types may result in moderate to severe lasting damage. While there are many factors that contribute to the severity of a stroke, receiving immediate medical care is crucial to saving as much of the brain’s function as possible.

Every type of stroke occurs from a sudden disruption in blood flow to sections of the brain, but they can be categorized based on what sort of injury is the cause of the interrupted blood flow:

Occlusive/Ischemic Strokes The vast majority of strokes are caused by a blockage that prevents blood flow to part of the brain. A clot of plaque could grow inside the brain or travel from other parts of the body, but once it blocks an artery inside the brain, the parts of the brain past the block will become damaged.

Hemorrhagic Strokes When an artery in the brain breaks, the blood spills outside of the vessels instead of circulating to the rest of the brain cells. The lack of blood flow to the brain causes damage.

Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) Sometimes referred to as “mini-strokes,” a TIA is when a clot blocks the blood flow in the brain temporarily, but blood flow returns on its own. The symptoms generally present like symptoms of a stroke but resolve in anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Their attacks are still considered to be a medical emergency, as they are usually warnings of a bigger stroke in the future (2).

The most common symptoms for any type of stroke are dropping of one side of the face, weakness in or an inability to use one side of the body, and slurred or jumbled speech. Many strokes could also involve vision changes, severe headaches, numbness, and/or problems balancing.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation created the FAST acronym to aid in recognizing strokes. F – Face: is it drooping? A – Arms: can you raise both? S – Speech: is it slurred or jumbled? T – Time to call 911 if any of these signs are being exhibited!

Strokes do not discriminate; they can strike at any time, to anybody, at any age. While there are some risk factors like genetics that people cannot avoid, many lifestyle choices come with an increased risk of stroke. Reducing risk factors is an important way to prevent strokes. Eating healthy and staying active are great ways to improve your health while things like excessive alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, high levels of stress, overindulging in unhealthy foods, and maintaining a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to a higher risk of stroke.

There are several factors that could contribute to the severity or type of stroke that occurs. The brain is a very complicated organ, which is why prevention and immediate medical attention are the best tools we can use in order to control, prevent, or lessen the damage caused during a stroke. Your healthcare team can help you recognize the signs of a stroke and set you up to lead a healthy lifestyle to help prevent strokes. Call your nearest IHC location directly or stop by to book an appointment with a member of our healthcare team.

2 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


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