Iowa Concussion

What is a stroke?

A stroke, or CVA (cerebrovascular accident), is a brain injury that occurs when the brain is cut off from its oxygen-rich blood supply. Lack of oxygen causes brain cells to die off which may result in symptoms of sudden weakness, slurred speech, and lasting brain damage. The two main types of strokes are ischemic strokes (caused by a blocked artery) and hemorrhagic strokes (caused by a ruptured artery). Both types of strokes are serious brain injuries that can lead to long-term disabilities and even death. In fact, strokes are the number one cause of adult disabilities and the 5th leading cause of death in the United States.

Causes of Stroke

Strokes are caused by either the rupture or blockage of an artery that supplies blood and oxygen to the brain. 87% of strokes are due to blockage, and are termed “ischemic strokes”. This blockage is typically due to a build up of plaque (sticky fat deposit) or a blood clot. There are certain medical conditions that increase the risk of having an Ischemic stroke, such as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease that causes excess fatty plaque to build up inside arteries. This plaque hardens and narrows the walls of the artery, limiting blood flow. Plaque in an artery can also break open, releasing blood platelets that clump together and form clots, which can also cause restricted blood flow. Heart conditions and blood disorders can also cause blood clots that can lead to a stroke. For example, atrial fibrillation is a common cause of embolic stroke (type of ischemic stroke). This condition involves an irregular heartbeat, which allowed blood to collect in the heart and potentially form a clot, which can be released into the bloodstream and block or limit blood flow. When blood flow becomes too restricted or stops, a stroke occurs.


Thankfully, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented with the right diet and exercise. Eating diets low in fats and salts, participating in ample physical activity, and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol are all ways to keep blood pressure regulated and actively reduce the risk of the occurrence of a stroke. Unfortunately there are some stroke risk factors that cannot be prevented. These include age, gender, race, and heredity.

Age - Although stroke risk increases with age, strokes can—and do—occur at any age. In 2009, 34% of people hospitalized for stroke were younger than 65 years.

Gender - Women are more likely than men to experience and/or ultimately die from a stroke.

Race - Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans, but the risk of having a stroke varies with race and ethnicity. Risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks than for whites, and blacks are more likely to die following a stroke than are whites. Hispanics’ risk for stroke falls between that of whites and blacks. American Indians, Alaska Natives, and blacks are more likely to have had a stroke than are other groups.

Heredity - The risk of stroke is higher for individuals who have a family history of stroke.

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are "warning strokes" that produce symptoms similar to a stroke but cause little to no lasting damage. However, TIAs are strong predictors of stroke occurrence. Someone who has had one or more TIAs is about 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who has never had a TIA. Recognizing a TIA and immediately seeking emergency medical treatment can help prevent the occurrence of a major stroke.

Do your part to prevent a stroke.

Live tobacco-free


Maintain a healthy weight


Preventive screenings (including blood pressure and blood cholesterol)

Download our Stroke Prevention Fact Sheet


More on stroke risk factors can be found here: Risk Factors of Stroke.


Recognizing A Stroke


In the United States, a stroke is experienced every 40 seconds. That’s about 800,000 strokes each year. A stroke is a serious medical condition that requires emergency care as FAST as possible.  Using the acronym F.A.S.T can help you identify and seek immediate treatment for a stroke or TIA. The faster you are able to make it to medical professionals, the better for your chances of recovery and minimizing damages.

  • Face Dropping – Does one side of the face droop or feels numb? Ask the person to smile.  Is the person’s smile uneven?

  • Arm WeaknessIs one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms.  Does one arm drift downward?

  • Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

  • Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. Do not hesitate, safe is better than sorry!


Stroke Symptoms


Beyond F.A.S.T there are a few other symptoms to look out for when suspecting a stroke.

  • Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on side of the body

  • Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech

  • Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes

  • Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

  • Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause


Stroke Facts

  • Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths.
  • On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes.
  • Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.
  • About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.
  • About 185,00 strokes—nearly one of four—are in people who have had a previous stroke.
  • About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, when blood flow to the brain is blocked.
  • Stroke costs the United States an estimated $34 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat stroke, and missed days of work.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.
  • There are nearly 7 million stroke survivors in the U.S.
  • Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Stroke recovery is a lifelong process.


**All stroke facts listed above are courtesy of the CDC.


Stroke Myths


  • Strokes only happen to the elderly (ANYONE can be victim of a stroke)

  • Strokes are difficult to recognize (using F.A.S.T strokes can be easily detected).

  • You can treat a stroke at home with aspirin (strokes require immediate emergency care).

  • Strokes cannot be prevented. (80% of strokes CAN be prevented)

  • Strokes are a type of heart attack (strokes are more like ‘brain attacks’ and are much different than a heart attack)


*Stroke myths provided by American Heart Association


Stroke Centers in Iowa


Center Name





Mercy Hospital Iowa City

Iowa City



Advanced Primary Stroke Center

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Iowa City



Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center

Mercy Medical Center - Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids



Advance Primary Stroke Center

St. Luke's Methodist Hospital

Cedar Rapids



Advance Primary Stroke Center

Genesis Medical Center




Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Trinity Medical Center




Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Great River Medical Center

West Burlington



Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Mercy Health Services  




Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Allen Memorial Hospital




Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Mercy Medical Center

Des Moines



Advanced Primary Stroke Center

Mercy Medical Center - Sioux City Sioux City IA 51101 AHA Gold Plus and Joint Commission Certified for Primary Stroke Center

Mercy Medical Center - North Iowa

Mason City



Advanced Primary Stroke Center



Stroke Support Groups in Iowa

Social support is key to recovering from any brain injury, including a stroke. It is helpful to know that there are others who have been in a similar situation and to hear stories of how they are able to overcome related disabilities.

Name of Group



Stamp Out Stroke Support
(Cedar Rapids/ Iowa City Area)

Mercy Medical Center, even years, at Katz Cardiovascular Conference Room first floor. St. Luke’s, odd years, in Cedar Rapids.

2nd Tuesday of every month3:00 – 4:30 pm

Stroke Support Group

Mercy Hospital Iowa City
First floor Conference Room-Café A

1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month 1:30-3:00 pm
Mary McCarthy (319) 339-3662

Stroke Support Group
(Ames Area)

Mary Greeley Medical Center
conference rooms A and B

3rd Tuesday of every month 6:30-7:30 pm
Please call(515) 239-2323 or go to

CLASS: Continued Life after Surviving Stroke
(Waterloo Area)

Unity Point Health/Allen Hospital
Acute Rehabilitation Community Room
Entrance 2, Elevator D to 5th floor

2nd Wednesday of every month10:00-11:00 am
Call (319) 235-3422 to register

Stroke Support Group
(Quad Cities Area)

Trinity at Unity Point
Rehab Gym, 5th floor,
Rock Island Campus

1st Monday of every month 4:30 -6:30 pm
Please call Kate Parr (309) 779-3130

SPARC: Stroke Prevention and Recovery Center
(Quad Cities Area)

Genesis Plaza
2535 Maplecrest Road, Bettendorf
Ste. 14

3rd Wednesday of every month 2:00-3:00 pm
Please Call Alicia Owens (563) 421-3460 For questions

Aphagia Group
(Quad Cities Area)

Valley Fair
2720 West Locust Street, Davenport

2nd Tuesday of every month 3:00 pm
Please Call Alicia Owens (563) 421-3460 For questions

Stroke Club
(Des Moines Area)

New Hope United Methodist Church
4525 Beaver Ave, Des Moines

3rd Tuesday of every month except in November, December, and January due to holidays 7:00 pm
Contact: Denise Behrends (515) 241-5767

Stroke Support Group
(Burlington Area)

Great River Medical Center,
1221 S. Gear Avenue,
West Burlington
(Enter through the Cancer Care entrance)

3rd Wednesday of every month 10:00 am
Keli Oleson RN Case Manager Inpatient Acute Rehab Great River Medical Center (319) 768-4211


Stroke Net


Stroke Net is an online support and information resource available 24/7 to those who are dealing with stroke, whether that be the individual, their family members, or an associated professional. The purpose of this website is to explain stroke in a way that individuals and caregivers alike can easily understand. This website stresses the importance of starting rehabilitation as soon as possible after the stroke and provides assistance on how to do so. You can find the link here: Stroke Education

Stroke Resources

For Patients and Caregivers

American Heart Association

American Stroke Association


Caregiver Guide


Centers for Disease Control (CDC)


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)



National Stroke Association


Stroke Screening


The iowa Stroke Task Force


For Professionals

Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke

Management of Stroke Rehabilitation:


Stroke Related Professional Societies


Stroke Resources for Professionals

o   Face Dropping – Does one side of the face droop or feels numb? Ask the person to

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