Brain Attack — Time is Brain

Brain Attack

Click the image to download a comprehensive pdf about stroke from the National Stroke Association.


For complete and accurate information on stroke, call
National Stroke Association 1-800-STROKES (800-787-6537) 

Brain Attack!

Brain attack, aka stroke, is the exact same physiologic process as heart attack, except it happens in the brain instead of the heart. In both instances, blood fails to get delivered where it needs to go. This is usually caused by some sort of obstruction in the arteries feeding the heart muscle or brain tissue. As you will see, brain attack is largely preventable.

The most important thing to remember with brain attack is that once symptoms begin, time is of the essence.


Many strokes can be reversed or at least limited in the amount of damage they do, but it is crucial to begin treatment within the first three hours. Patients tend to seek help immediately with a heart attack, largely because heart attacks hurt and the early symptoms have been ingrained into the public’s mindset over the years. Brain attack does not hurt (strokes are often painless, rarely they may be associated with headache) and victims often ignore the early warning signs (such as difficulty speaking; one sided weakness of the hand, arm, leg, or face; vision problems, especially sudden loss of vision in one eye). Painless weakness should prompt you to see your doctor immediately.

Note that many hospitals now have a stroke alert protocol, just as they have a protocol for heart attack victims. 


The Cost of Stroke to Americans

  • Stroke is our nation’s third leading cause of death, killing 160,000 Americans every year.
  • Every year more than 750,000 Americans have a new or recurrent stroke.
  • Every forty-five seconds in the United States, someone experiences a stroke.
  • Over the course of a lifetime, four out of every five American families will be touched by stroke.
  • Approximately one-third of all stroke survivors will have another stroke within five years.
  • Of the 590,000 Americans who survive a stroke each year, approximately 5 to 14 percent will have another stroke within one year.The rate of having another stroke is about 10 percent per year thereafter.
  • Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability. Over four million Americans are living with the effects of stroke. About one-third have mild impairments, another third are moderately impaired and the remainder are severely impaired.
  • Stroke costs the United States more than $52 billion annually. Direct costs, such as hospitals, physicians and rehabilitation add up to $32 billion; indirect costs, such as lost productivity, total $20 billion.The average cost per patient for the first 90 days post-stroke is $15,000, although 10 percent of the cases exceed $35,000. 

The Toll on Older Adults

  • Stroke risk increases with age. For each decade after age 55, the risk of stroke doubles.
  • For adults over age 65, the risk of dying from stroke is seven times that of the general population.
  • Two thirds of all strokes occur in people over age 65.

The Toll on Women

  • Twice as many women die from stroke than from breast cancer every year.
  • Two-thirds of American women don’t know stroke symptoms or that they must get immediate medical treatment.
  • One-third of strokes in women occur in those under the age of 65.
  • 100,000 young and middle-aged women will suffer a stroke this year.
  • African American women have the highest rate of stroke prevalence among the three major female ethnic groups, including Caucasians and Hispanics.
  • Women who smoke and take birth control pills are four times more likely to have a stroke.
  • Stroke has a disproportionate effect on women. Women account for approximately 43 percent of the strokes that occur each year, yet they account for 61 percent of stroke deaths.

The Toll on African Americans

  • The incidence rate for first stroke among African Americans is almost double that of Caucasians – 288 per 100,000 African Americans, compared to 179 per 100,000 whites.
  • African Americans suffer more extensive physical impairments that last longer than those of other racial groups in the United States.
  • African Americans are also twice as likely to die from a stroke. Stroke mortality for this group is nearly double that for whites.
  • African Americans have a disproportionately high incidence of risk factors for stroke, particularly hypertension, diabetes, obesity, smoking and sickle cell anemia. 


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