Everything A Family Caregiver Needs to Know About Stroke & Its Effects

Robert C. Fisher

According to the CDC, stroke is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. 

One out of every three American adults has at least one of the primary risk factors for stroke: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking habit, obesity, and diabetes.

As a caregiver, it is important to understand what a stroke is, what the symptoms are, how to manage stroke treatment after a loved one has suffered a stroke, as well as the effects of stroke.

While the risk of stroke depends on the individual, it can be helpful to understand the warning signs to prevent your loved one from suffering from one in the future.


What is a stroke?


A stroke or brain attack occurs in the brain when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients ruptures or is blocked by a blood clot.

Strokes are also referred to as brain attacks because with blood supply reduced to part of the brain, the brain tissue fails to receive the necessary oxygen and nutrients, and brain cells begin dying immediately.

Luckily, fatalities due to stroke have been declining, and more promising treatments are available today.

3 Different Type Of Stroke To Be Aware Of


Strokes are severe and can lead to a coma or death without immediate treatment.

Therefore, learning about the three different types of stroke and their symptoms is very important for recognizing the onset symptoms of a stroke. In addition, it can help inform your research on stroke prevention moving forward.

Let’s review three common types of stroke.

1. Ischemic stroke

According to the American Stroke Association (ASA), atherosclerosis is the main cause of ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. Ischemic strokes make up about 87% of all strokes.

Ischemic stroke is often caused by a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis describes a condition where fatty deposits cover the walls of the blood vessels. This can lead to a blood clot blockage, obstructing the flow of blood to areas of the brain and leading to stroke.

While a blood thinner can be prescribed to prevent blood clots from occurring, a thrombolytic (TPA) or “Clot Buster” drug is often prescribed to break up the clot that is causing a blockage and can help restore blood flow to the brain.

Unfortunately, blood clots can put your loved one at a higher risk of undergoing a heart attack, stroke, and other types of serious medical issues.

2. Hemorrhagic stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels rupture, causing bleeding in the brain.

Hemorrhagic strokes tend to be more fatal and more likely to cause long-term disability for survivors. These strokes can be further subdivided into intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) and subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH).

If it’s suspected that your loved one has had a hemorrhagic stroke, talk to your loved one’s healthcare provider about scheduling a CT scan which will confirm they’ve had a hemorrhagic stroke. A CT scan can also identify whether your loved one has had an ischemic stroke.

It's generally quicker than an MRI scan and can mean you're able to receive appropriate treatment sooner.

According to the American Heart Association, ICH strokes occur at an alarmingly new rate in young adults.


3. Transient Ischemic attack

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a "mini-stroke," is similar to an ischemic stroke.

However, the blood clot that caused the TIA is usually temporary and clears up more quickly. If you or your loved one is showing signs of a stroke, you should treat it as a medical emergency and inform a health care professional immediately.

What are the stroke risk factors to know?


Now that you’ve reviewed the three different types of stroke, let’s list common risk factors that can lead to stroke. If your loved one has any of the risk factors below, they may be at a higher risk of stroke.


  • High-Blood Pressure

  • Heart disease and blood vessel disorders

  • Diabetes

  • Smoking

  • High Cholesterol

  • Obesity & Lack Of Exercise

  • Brain Aneurysm

  • Excessive Alcohol or Drug Use

  • Age & Gender

  • Race & Ethnicity

  • History of prior stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)

  • Family History of Stroke


The Effects After Surviving a Stroke


A stroke occurs when blood flow is impeded from reaching certain areas of the brain. Depending on what part of the body that part of the brain controls, different effects will be seen in the stroke survivor.

Brain damage brought on by stroke can cause both common and uncommon effects. Some of the more common effects of stroke include:

  • Paralysis on one side of the body

  • Memory loss or confusion

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Pseudo-bulbar affect (uncontrollable laughing or crying)

  • Fatigue

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)

  • Pain and heightened sensitivity

  • Problems with vision

  • Severe Headaches

  • Seizures

  • Spasticity (muscles tightened)

  • Balance difficulties

  • Foot drop, claw toe, or hammertoe

Depending on the area of the brain where the stroke has caused damage, other effects may occur.

In the case that a stroke affects the left hemisphere of your loved one’s brain, however, their language and communication skills may be directly affected.

If your loved one is experiencing one or several of the above-listed effects, communicate with your loved one’s health care provider to better understand stroke treatment options.

While there isn’t a particular blood test that diagnoses stroke, if your loved one gets hospitalized, their nurse or doctor at the hospital can perform blood tests to understand what caused their stroke symptoms.

In the meantime, try asking your loved one’s healthcare provider about what lifestyle changes can help benefit your loved one moving forward. As their caregiver, you can play an important role in ensuring that your loved one gets the best treatment possible.


Medical Advice Disclaimer


The information on this website, including text, graphics, images, and other materials, is intended for informational purposes only. No material on this webpage or any other page on this website is meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For questions regarding medical conditions or the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional or physician. Do not delay seeking nor disregard professional medical advice because of the information on this website.