What Happens In The Brain When A Person Has A Stroke

Strokes are, primarily, caused by occlusions or blockages in the arteries that feed blood to the brain. When these arteries become blocked, the lack of oxygen can kill brain cells almost instantly and cause death or severe disablement in the patient. So, what happens in the brain when a person has a stroke? Well..

What happens directly depends on the type of stroke that is incurred. If it is an ischemic stroke, then the blockages will cause the brain cells to die. On the other hand, with hemorrhagic strokes, arteries burst open due to hypertension and also results in the damaging or killing off of brain cells.

If you want an insight into these two different types of strokes, continue reading.

What Happens During An Ischemic Stroke?

Ischemic strokes, the most common of strokes, are caused either by atherosclerosis or hypertension. Atherosclerosis causes strokes by hardening and clogging up the arteries with plaque, whilst hypertension stresses the arterial walls and causes it to weaken and be more susceptible to atherosclerosis.

In either case, the cause of damage is a result of the lack of blood flow, and thus oxygen, into the brain. Causing brain cells to die off and a stroke to be incurred.

A term, “Time is brain” has been coined in order to express the aging factor of a stroke in the brain when left untreated. To be specific, it has been said the ischemic brain ages up to 3.6 years each hour, and within that time, a human could potentially lose up to 1.9 million neurons each minute.

To offer some perspective, skin cells live up to 27 days before being completely regenerated. On the other hand, brain cells can last for your entire life. In fact, some of them, like the neurons that can be found in the cerebral cortex, cannot be replaced when they die.

So, as an example, if that part of your brain is damaged, then there is no hope for recovery, leaving you unable to understand speech (which is a common after-effect of a serious stroke.)

What Happens During A Hemorrhagic Stroke?

Hemorrhagic strokes are less common but more fatal — of the two it is more likely to result in death, up to 40% to be specific. With up to 60% of the survivors left with a severe and permanent neurological deficit that can cause severe disablement.

Now, as we mentioned in the very beginning, these strokes occur when arteries burst and cause blood to leak. This leak, because of how the brain is fitted into the skull, can compress the brain and lead to the death of brain cells as a result of no oxygen.

Because of the fatalistic nature of this type of stroke, it is important that it is treated immediately. Some people will be more likely to incur this type of stroke depending on their age, medical history, and history of other brain injuries.


In both cases, the reason why stroke occurs is because of a lack of oxygen. This leads to the death of neurons, which are brain cells that are important in the functioning of the entire body. Neither type should be taken lightly, and immediate treatment is required for both.

If you are a risk for either type of stroke, it is also important that you take preventative measures that can help reduce your chances. In both cases, no known cure is available, but taking the steps to live healthier is the general advice that is given for most parties.


  1. “Time Is Brain-Quantified.” Stroke, www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/01.STR.0000196957.55928.ab.
  2. Saver, Jeffrey L. “Time Is Brain—Quantified.” Stroke, vol. 37, no. 1, 2006, pp. 263–266., doi:10.1161/01.str.0000196957.55928.ab.

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