Caring Web

Understanding the Stroke Process

Disease Process

A stroke, also called a brain attack, is an injury to the brain. Most strokes happen when blood cannot get to a part of the brain. The blood is unable to reach the brain due to a blood vessel that is blocked by a clot or is too narrow for blood to flow through it. These are called ischemic (is-KEE-mic) strokes and are the most common type of stroke. Another type is called hemorrhagic (hem-or-AJ-ic) stroke and occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing brain injury.

Injury from the stroke can take many forms, depending on the area of the brain that is damaged. The stroke effect may be slight and temporary or it may be serious, and can sometimes cause death. Every stroke is different and no two stroke survivors have the same problems.

Individuals with stroke are at a higher risk of having another stroke. As a caregiver of an individual with stroke there are some things that you can encourage to decrease the risk of another stroke:

diabetesControl of blood pressure:
Take blood pressure medication as prescribed. Ask your health care provider about the purchase of an in-home blood pressure monitoring device or free blood pressure clinics. Also ask how often the blood pressure should be checked and at what level of a high reading should he or she be notified. Keep a record or log of all blood pressures and take it to all visits to your health care provider for review. Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure (PDF) contains information for you about what can be done.

Stop smoking:
Cigarette smoking is linked to an increased risk for stroke. Ask your health care provider about a program designed to help quit smoking. A Guide to Quitting Smoking ( can assist your efforts in not smoking.

Exercise regularly:
Researchers think exercise may make the heart stronger and improve circulation. It also helps control weight. Being overweight increases the chance of high blood pressure. Ask your health care provider about an exercise program that is safe for the individual with stroke. A Guide to Exercise and Physical Activity ( may be helpful for you.

Eat a healthy diet:
Eat foods low in fat, salt, and cholesterol. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. There are many books available at libraries and stores with excellent recipes and many eating places list healthy menu foods. Healthy Eating Tips ( may assist you in making healthy food choices.

blood sugarControl diabetes:
If the individual you care for has elevated blood sugars, encourage prescribed medication and follow a prescribed diet. Ask your health care provider about the purchase of an in-home blood sugar monitoring device, how often blood sugars should be checked, and at what blood sugar reading the provider would need to be notified. Keep a record or log of all blood sugar results and take it to all visits to the health care provider for review. A Guide for the Management of Diabetes ( can help you learn what you need to know about diabetes.

If the individual you care for should have any signs of another stroke, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. The warning signs for stroke are:

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

Additional Information:

The following are some web sites to provide you with more information about stroke and stroke prevention:

Stroke rehabilitation

What you should know about stroke prevention



American Stroke Association. (2011). About stroke. Retrieved from

Derstine, J., & Hargrove, S. (2001). Comprehensive rehabilitation nursing. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Fenstermacher, K., & Hudson, B. (2000). Practice guidelines for family nurse practitioners. Philadelphia: Saunders.

National Stroke Association. (2011). What is Stroke? Retrieved from

NIH Medline Plus. (2007). Understanding stroke. Retrieved from

Phipps, W. (1999). Medical-surgical nursing: Concepts and clinical practice (6th ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.

The Internet Stroke Center. (2011). Understanding stroke recovery. Retrieved from

Uphold, C., & Graham, M. (1998). Clinical guidelines in family practice (3rd ed.). Gainesville, FL: Barmarrae Books.

Developed in 2001 by Gerri Rupp, MSN, RN, CNP at the University of Toledo for Caring~Web©

Revised 2010, 2012

Last Updated: 6/27/22