Stroke is America's no. 4 killer and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability.
What is a stroke?
Stroke is a disease that affects the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is either blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke) or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). When that happens, part of the brain is no longer getting the blood and oxygen it needs, so it starts to die. Your brain controls your movement and thoughts, so a stroke doesn't only hurt your brain. It also hurts the brain's ability to think and control body functions. Strokes can affect language, memory and vision as well as cause paralysis and other health issues.
How does high blood pressure cause a stroke?
- HBP damages arteries so they burst or clog more easily.
HBP can damage arteries throughout the body. Weakened arteries in the brain put you at much higher risk for stroke. View a detailed animation of HBP.
- HBP and ischemic stroke
About 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes. Again, they are caused by narrowed or clogged blood vessels in the brain that cut off the blood flow to brain cells.
Because HBP damages arteries throughout the body, it is critical to keep your blood pressure within acceptable ranges to protect your brain from this often disabling or fatal event. View a detailed animation of ischemic stroke.
- HBP and hemorrhagic stroke
About 13% of strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain. When a blood vessel ruptures, it can bleed into the deep tissue in the brain or in the space between the brain and the skull.
High blood pressure damages the arteries and can create weak places that rupture easily or thin spots that fill up with blood and balloon out from the artery wall (called an aneurysm). Chronic HBP or aging blood vessels are the main causes of this type of stroke. View a detailed animation of hemorrhagic stroke.
Visit the American Stroke Association website to learn more about stroke and prevention.
This content was last reviewed on 02/04/14.