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What is a stroke?
Ischemic strokes
Hemorrhagic strokes
Transient ischemic attacks
Risk factors and prevention
Signs and symptoms
Post-stroke recovery
Caring for caregiving — resources


Mount Nittany Medical Center is accredited through The Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center. It received the American Heart Association & American Stroke Association 2020 Get with the Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Achievement Award with Target: Stroke SM Honor Roll Elite. The Medical Center and staff are committed to providing you and your loved ones with expert care and comprehensive educational and support resources.

The Mount Nittany Health primary stroke program ensures that, from the time emergency medical services (EMS) are called, through the hospital stay and even into post-discharge follow-up and rehabilitation, patients with strokes receive the care they need. In addition, ongoing education and support services for the caregivers are provided.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain are cut off. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America and can happen to anyone at any time.

When a blood clot blocks an artery, or a blood vessel breaks, blood flow to the brain is interrupted, brain cells begin to die, and brain damage occurs. As brain cells die during a stroke, abilities such as speech, movement and memory can be lost. Stroke patients are affected in different ways, depending on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged.

Approximately 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year, and African-Americans face almost twice the risk that Caucasians do. This year alone, nearly 800,000 strokes will occur in the UNited States.

There are three main types of strokes that can occur:

  • Ischemic strokes
  • Hemorrhagic strokes
  • Transient ischemic attacks

Ischemic strokes

An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, accounting for about 87 percent of all cases. An ischemic stroke occurs when arteries are blocked by blood clots or by the gradual build-up of plaque.

Hemorrhagic strokes

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks and leaks blood into the brain. While less common than ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes are responsible for more than 30 percent of all stroke deaths.

Transient ischemic attacks

Transient ischemic attacks, abbreviated “TIA” and also known as “mini strokes,” increase with age. It is estimated that up to 40 percent of all people who suffer a TIA will then experience a full stroke. 

Risk factors and prevention

While many risk factors may be beyond your control (such as being over the age of 55), there are lifestyle and medical changes you can make to reduce your risk of stroke.

If you’ve had a previous stroke (including a TIA or “mini stroke”), or if you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, atrial fibrillation or carotid artery disease, a healthcare professional may be able to help you control and manage your risk for stroke.

Helpful links

Below is a small list of links to helpful organizations that can provide additional, detailed stroke information:

Being overweight, smoking and drinking too much alcohol can also increase your risk for stroke. It’s important to eat healthily, quit smoking, exercise regularly and limit alcohol consumption to lower stroke risk.

In addition, there are other risk factors for stroke that are unique to women, which may include the following:

  • Taking birth control pills
  • Being pregnant
  • Using hormone replacement therapy 
  • Having a waist greater than 35 inches and a high triglyceride level
  • Being a migraine headache sufferer

To understand your stroke risk and how you might manage your risk, talk with your physician.

Signs and symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of stroke seen in both men and women may include the following:

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

Women may report different stroke symptoms than men, which may include the following:

  • Sudden face and limb pain
  • Sudden nausea
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Sudden heart palpitations
  • Sudden hiccups
  • Sudden general weakness
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden general weakness

If you or someone you know have any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately.

B.E. F.A.S.T.*

When someone is having a stroke, time is of the essence. By acting quickly, precious brain cells and lives can be saved.

The acronym, “B.E. F.A.S.T.,” can help you recognize the signs of a stroke and remind you to act quickly:

B = BALANCE: Does the person have loss of balance, headache or dizziness?

E = EYES: Does the person have blurred vision?

F = FACE: Ask the person to smile. Is the face drooping on one side?

A = ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one drift downward?

S = SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = TIME: If you observe any of these signs, together or separately, act immediately and call 911.

*“B.E. F.A.S.T.” was developed by Intermountain Healthcare as an adaptation of the F.A.S.T. model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Health Care.

Post-stroke recovery

The goal of rehabilitation is to improve function so that the stroke survivor can regain independence. In some cases, basic skills, such as eating, dressing or walking, may need to be relearned through use of rehabilitation.

As soon as possible after stroke, rehabilitation begins. Rehabilitation usually starts in the hospital and continues after the patient is released. Depending upon the severity of the stroke, rehabilitation options may include a rehabilitation unit in the hospital, home therapy, outpatient therapy or a long-term care facility.

Rehabilitation may include working with speech, physical and occupational therapists. Your physician will determine which therapies will be necessary to promote optimal recovery.

  • Speech therapy helps people who have problems producing or understanding speech. Common disorders following a stroke that may require the services of a speech therapist include cognitive communication disorders, aphasia and dysarthria.
  • Physical therapy assists with balance, coordination, endurance and strength.
  • Occupational therapy focuses on improving skills related to the activities of daily living, including eating, drinking, dressing, bathing, reading and writing.

Caring for caregiving — resources

It is estimated that there are 7,000,000 stroke survivors over the age of 20 in the United States. After you or a family member survive a stroke, the recovery process begins.

Caregivers or family caregivers are essential to recovery. Assisting with things such as physician appointments, medications, rehabilitation exercises, transportation, emotional support, hygiene care, communication and more, caregivers are advocates for stroke survivors.

For detailed caregiver information, tips, and support, click here to visit the American Stroke Association’s links.