What is a Cerebrovascular Accident?

Dulce Corazon

A cerebrovascular accident, also known as stroke, is generally the result of blood flow interruption in the brain. Oxygen and glucose, often carried by the blood, are essential in the health of brain cells. When blood supply is cut off, brain cells on that part of the brain die, often resulting in loss of brain function. There are several types of cerebrovascular accidents. These include cerebral thrombosis, cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral embolism and transient ischemic attack (TIA).

Alcoholism is a risk factor for cerebrovascular accident.
Alcoholism is a risk factor for cerebrovascular accident.

Cerebral thrombosis occurs when an artery, a blood vessel supplying oxygenated blood to the brain, becomes narrow due to fatty deposits on its walls. The buildup of fat deposits usually takes many years and eventually leads to complete blockage of the artery which may result in the gradual onset of a cerebrovascular accident. A blood clot or thrombus, however, may also form on the artery, frequently leading to the sudden occlusion of the blood vessel. Risk factors for cerebral thrombosis include diabetes, hypertension, use of oral contraceptives, and smoking.

People who have suffered past heart attacks are at higher risk for a cerebral embolism.
People who have suffered past heart attacks are at higher risk for a cerebral embolism.

Cerebral hemorrhage happens when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds inside the brain. Blood usually seeps into brain tissues causing tissue damage. This type of cerebrovascular accident is often due to the weakening on the wall of a blood vessel which can burst when hypertension or high blood pressure occurs. Risk factors associated with cerebral hemorrhage include hypertension, chronic alcoholism, and substance abuse, such as the use of cocaine.

Smoking while taking oral contraceptives increases a woman's risk of stroke almost four times.
Smoking while taking oral contraceptives increases a woman's risk of stroke almost four times.

An embolism is a blood clot that formed from other parts of the body and travels with the blood circulation to lodge on the smaller arteries of the brain and cause blockage. Cerebral embolisms often occur suddenly. Patients with irregular heartbeats and those who just suffered a heart attack have higher risks for cerebral embolism.

A TIA is a cerebrovascular accident which occurs for less than a day. An occlusion usually occurs in a small artery and affects only a smaller portion of the brain, resulting in less serious damage. This, however, is often a serious risk factor for the occurrence of a major cerebrovascular accident, so prompt medical intervention is often needed.

Symptoms of cerebrovascular accidents usually depend on the area of the brain affected and the extent of injury. These include severe headache, confusion, temporary loss of vision and slurring of speech. Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, often involving the arm and leg, also often occur, as well as weakness on one side of the face.

Cocaine use can cause a cerebrovascular accident such as a cerebral hemorrhage.
Cocaine use can cause a cerebrovascular accident such as a cerebral hemorrhage.

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Discussion Comments


It's not just the elderly who suffer from strokes. A classmate of my sister's had a stroke when he was in his 40's.

As far as I know he didn't have any cerebrovascular accident symptoms before he had this stroke which changed his life.

He is now living in a nursing home and is one of the youngest people there. I would think if you weren't depressed before that, living there when you are so young would really be depressing.


When I worked as an underwriter for an insurance company, I read many medical records. I specialized in the long term care division, so most of the records I read were for elderly people.

There were many times when a person would have several TIA incidents and be able to continue on with their normal daily activities.

There were other times when those small TIA's would lead to a larger event that was much more serious. If someone knows they have cerebrovascular disease there are many things they can do to reduce their risk.

One of the biggest things is keeping their weight, blood sugar and blood pressure under control. Eating right and exercise are also important. When you think about it, those are things that everybody should be doing to stay healthy.


@myharley - Your mom is fortunate she got medical care and hasn't had any lingering problems. When my uncle had a CVA cerebrovascular accident, it really changed his life.

Thankfully he is still alive, but every day is a challenge for him. He had high blood pressure and has been a diabetic for many years. He also wasn't the best at taking care of himself and watching his diet.

The stroke has left him partially paralyzed on the right side of his body. It has also affected his speech and he can no longer take care of himself.

Even after going through physical therapy and speech therapy, each day is a physical and emotional challenge for him.


There are a lot of reasons a person can have a stroke, but for my mom, I think it was because of stress.

When my mom had a TIA, she was working nights, taking care of my grandma, and taking care of my handicapped sister.

A few weeks after my grandma passed away, my mom had an episode where she couldn't remember anything. The doctor said her blood pressure was high and that she had a TIA.

She hadn't shown any signs of a stroke up to this point and hasn't had any problems since then. She has kept her blood pressure under control, and also isn't under as much stress.

Thankfully she hasn't had any complications since this one incident. Even though this is considered a minor stroke, it was still a scary thing to know she had suffered from a stroke.

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