APEX Brain Centers

Stroke: A Comprehensive Guide to Causes, Symptoms, and Recovery Pathways

At APEX Brain Centers, we understand that a stroke represents a critical event affecting the brain’s blood supply that can lead to significant and specific neurological damage, depending on what areas of the brain are injured. Strokes typically occur due to either an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain or due to the rupture of such a vessel, causing bleeding in or around the brain. This disruption can manifest in numerous symptoms, from sudden numbness and confusion to more severe consequences like loss of consciousness or paralysis, and even death. Identifying these symptoms promptly is crucial for effective treatment, so education on stroke recognition and response is a priority in our practice.

Our approach at APEX addresses both the initial management and long-term recovery following a stroke. We emphasize using functional neurology and neurological rehabilitation techniques to aid recovery, including low-level laser therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and neurofeedback

Recognizing that each individual’s journey to recovery is unique, we implement personalized treatment plans incorporating balance and vestibular therapies, eye movement rehabilitation, metabolic and nutritional therapies, and home care programs. Our goal is to support and maximize healing and improve the quality of life for those affected by strokes.

In our practice, we have seen that integrating our foundational neurological and metabolic rehabilitative therapies often enhances the effectiveness of more traditional health services. We provide a structured framework for individuals suffering from brain injuries, cognitive impairments, and learning and behavioral disorders, with an emphasis on holistic recovery and achieving optimal brain function. By consistently pursuing excellence in these therapeutic approaches, we strive to offer leading-edge solutions for those we serve.

Download Our 10 Tips for a Better Brain eBook

Through state-of-the-art brain mapping, objective neurological testing, intensive research-based brain training, and nutritional intervention, we are able to assess and train the brain to perform at peak condition. Take the firsts step today!
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Understanding Strokes

Our work at APEX Brain Centers recognizes the critical importance of educating patients and families about strokes—their types, how they occur, and the anatomy involved.

Types of Strokes

Strokes are primarily categorized into two types: ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes. Ischemic strokes, which make up about 87% of all strokes, occur when an artery to the brain is obstructed by a blood clot, hindering blood flow and depriving brain cells of oxygen. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common and happen when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, resulting in bleeding within or around the brain.

Anatomy of a Stroke

During an ischemic stroke, the lack of blood flow to the brain leads to the death of brain cells due to insufficient oxygen and nutrients. When it comes to a hemorrhagic stroke, the blood vessels in the brain may burst, causing localized bleeding, which can damage or destroy nearby brain tissue, which is incredibly delicate in nature. Both types of strokes can have devastating effects on a person’s health, depending on the area of the brain affected. A transient ischemic attack (TIA)—also known as a mini-stroke—exhibits similar symptoms but usually resolves without permanent damage, serving as a warning sign for potential future strokes.

Our practice at APEX Brain Centers focuses on providing comprehensive care to address the needs of individuals with brain injuries. Our interventions aim to augment traditional health services such as physical, speech, and occupational therapies, amplifying their effectiveness for patients.

Risk Factors and Causes

Understanding stroke risk factors and causes is vital in its prevention and management. At APEX Brain Centers, we emphasize the importance of awareness and proactive measures to minimize these risks.

Lifestyle Factors

Smoking and obesity are significant lifestyle-related risk factors for stroke. Smoking contributes to the formation of plaques in the arteries, while obesity often goes hand in hand with high blood pressure and diabetes, which are major risk contributors due to persistent damage to the small blood vessels in the brain they cause. Exercise, healthy eating habits, and limiting alcohol intake, among other critical lifestyle factors, are essential in reducing these risks.

  • Smoking: doubles the risk of stroke when compared to a non-smoker.
  • Obesity: is linked closely to other stroke risk factors like hypertension.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions such as atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are prominent causes of stroke; although, high cholesterol alone will not necessarily cause a stroke. Atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm, can cause blood clots that may lead to stroke. Managing these conditions is crucial for stroke prevention.

  • Atrial Fibrillation: increases stroke risk by allowing blood clots to form more easily.
  • High Blood Pressure: is the leading cause of stroke and is controllable through lifestyle changes and, in severe cases, medications.
  • Diabetes: can increase stroke risk, requiring careful blood sugar management.

Genetic Predispositions

Family history and race are genetic factors that can predispose individuals to a higher risk of stroke. Those with a family history of stroke may have a greater likelihood of experiencing one, and certain races, like African Americans, are at a higher risk partly due to a prevalence of health issues like hypertension and diabetes.

  • Age: The risk of stroke increases with age, particularly after 55; although this number has begun to decrease in recent years.
  • Family History: A family history of stroke can increase an individual’s risk.

Our approach at APEX Brain Centers targets the full spectrum of stroke risk factors, utilizing our expertise in functional neurology and metabolic rehabilitation to enhance the effectiveness of traditional stroke prevention methods. By focusing on these elements, we can help patients manage their risk and optimize their neurological health.

Identifying Stroke Symptoms

Recognizing the signs of a stroke can be the difference between a full recovery and lasting disability. As experts in brain health, we emphasize the importance of timely identification and response to stroke symptoms.

Common Symptoms

Strokes manifest in sudden and distinct symptoms, typically on one side of the body. It is crucial to be aware of the following:

  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
  • Unexplained vision problems
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance

These symptoms require immediate attention, and it’s vital to act fast and seek emergency care.

Immediate Actions

When stroke symptoms are observed, time is critical. Here’s what to do:

  1. Call emergency services immediately.
  2. Note the time when symptoms began.
  3. Do not attempt to drive to the hospital; wait for an ambulance.
  4. Provide any known medical history to the emergency responders if possible.

Medical Evaluation and Diagnosis

When a patient presents with potential stroke symptoms, immediate and precise medical evaluation is crucial.

Initial Assessment

Upon arrival at the hospital during an emergency, a comprehensive neurological exam will be performed. Assessment of the patient’s mental status, coordination, sensation, and reflexes to identify neurological deficits that may indicate a stroke will be performed. A rapid assessment allows for the urgent care required for stroke patients, aiming to minimize brain damage and improve outcomes.

Diagnostic Tests

Advanced imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will often be performed to confirm a diagnosis. These imaging tools provide doctors with detailed pictures of the brain, helping differentiate between ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.

  • CT scan: This is often the first test administered as it is quick and effective at revealing hemorrhages or evidence of early ischemic changes in the brain.
  • MRI: An MRI can detect subtle changes and is particularly useful for diagnosing more minor strokes or those located in regions not easily seen on a CT scan.

Furthermore, blood tests are conducted to evaluate the blood’s clotting ability and check for other stroke-related factors. These tests aid in tailoring approaches to stroke care, including specialized treatments such as clot reduction interventions.

Stroke Treatment Options

When addressing strokes, it’s crucial to rapidly restore blood flow to the brain and minimize neuronal damage. The treatment options at APEX focus on our extensive expertise in functional neurology and complementary therapies after acute injury has been addressed.

Acute Management

Immediately upon a stroke’s onset, the primary goal is to reestablish cerebral blood circulation. This can often involve thrombolytic therapy, which employs medication designed to dissolve clots and mitigate the risk of further embolism. In our practice at APEX, we enhance these damage-limiting efforts by preparing patients for subsequent rehabilitative therapies, such as functional neurology, that have been shown to support recovery when initiated early after acute crisis has been resolved.


Anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents play a vital role in the emergency treatment phase, aimed at preventing new clots and the growth of existing ones. While we at APEX do not manage medications, we recognize that these pharmaceutical interventions are essential in the short-term management of stroke patients. Our role comes into play as we assist the recovery process through non-pharmaceutical approaches.

Surgical Interventions

For certain types of stroke, particularly those involving large clots or significant narrowing of arteries, surgery may be necessary. Surgical interventions aim to remove the obstructive clots or repair damaged blood vessels to restore proper cerebral blood flow. APEX’s comprehensive care strategy is designed to complement these procedures with rehabilitative therapies tailored to reduce the long-term impacts of stroke, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy and low-level laser therapy.

Post-Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery

Recovery and rehabilitation are crucial after a stroke, aimed at regaining as much independence as possible by restoring physical, mental, and emotional abilities. Our focus at APEX Brain Centers is on leading-edge, evidence-based treatments that empower stroke survivors throughout their recovery journey.

Restoring Function

Our rehabilitation approach centers on functional neurology, a methodology that enhances the nervous system’s ability to repair and optimize. We actively work toward re-establishing neural connections and improving overall brain function by incorporating low-level laser therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, among many rehabilitative strategies. Recovery in function often translates to improved strength and reduced disability, which are primary concerns post-stroke.

Adaptive Techniques

To ensure long-term success, we employ adaptive techniques that focus on the individualized needs of stroke survivors. Through balance and vestibular therapies and eye movement rehabilitation, we help our clients adapt to changes in their abilities, consistently aiming for enhanced independence. Adaptive equipment also plays a crucial role, allowing clients to perform daily activities more efficiently.

Long-Term Care

Our commitment extends beyond immediate recovery; we prioritize long-term care to maximize rehabilitation benefits. Metabolic and nutritional therapies are integrated to support the brain’s healing process and promote overall health. Our home care programs provide ongoing support for clients with continued challenges, ensuring that caregivers are well-equipped to help their loved ones thrive outside of the clinical setting.

Life After Stroke

After a stroke, life changes significantly for survivors. Our focus at APEX Brain Centers is on guiding individuals through recovery with evidence-based, non-invasive treatments that tap into the brain’s inherent capacity to rewire and heal.

Preventing Secondary Strokes

Lifestyle Changes: To prevent secondary strokes, we emphasize the importance of lifestyle changes, especially incorporating healthy fats into the diet, which can protect brain health. We also stress the need for regular physical activity and blood pressure management, as these are critical factors in reducing stroke risk.

  • Diet: Prioritize healthy fats, vegetables, and lean proteins.
  • Exercise: Incorporate moderate exercise into daily routines.
  • Health Monitoring: Regularly monitor blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Psychological Impact

Emotional Health: Survivors may experience a range of emotions post-stroke. We’ve observed that mental health services become significantly more impactful when accompanied by our neurological assessments and interventions. This multi-faceted approach nurtures emotional wellness and fosters resilience:

  1. Focus on functional neurology to optimize brain function.
  2. Integrate techniques like neurofeedback to aid in emotional regulation.
  3. Apply metabolic and nutritional therapies to support overall well-being.

Community and Support

Support Groups and Survivors: Community support is paramount for stroke recovery. In our practice, we guide survivors to appropriate support groups to foster a sense of community and shared experience. These groups offer not only emotional support but can also be a resource for sharing strategies to manage daily challenges:

  • Survivor Networks: Connecting with fellow survivors through support groups.
  • Family Involvement: Encouraging family engagement for sustained support.

Throughout our years of practice at APEX Brain Centers, we have helped many stroke survivors recover and live full, healthy lives.  We know, of course, that prevention is key.  However, knowing your risk factors, signs, and symptoms of stroke are also critical.  Time is of the essence in the event of a stroke, and knowing what to do is crucial.  After medical evaluation and diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery are important factors in preventing a second stroke.  Lifestyle changes and physical and emotional health are also key factors in your road to recovery, along with community and support moving forward.  At APEX Brain Centers, we offer a comprehensive approach to support rehabilitation, therapies, and home care programs to support your recovery and promote optimum health.

Dr. Michael S. Trayford is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Neurofeedback Specialist with over 20 years of experience in the practice of advanced functional neurology. He is one of the most highly sought-after brain rehabilitation specialists because of the life-changing outcomes his patients consistently experience. After over a decade in private practice and working alongside other pioneers in the field, Dr. Trayford developed his multimodal intensive brain training and rehabilitation program built around the science of Neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to learn and grow dependent upon the stimulation it receives from its environment. He later founded APEX Brain Centers to combine his ground-breaking rehabilitation approach with a unique patient and caretaker-centered care model. Under Dr. Trayford’s leadership, APEX Brain Centers has successfully treated thousands of patients and earned the reputation of a world-renowned brain training and rehabilitation practice. Since its inception, Dr. Trayford has been a leader of the Brain Training revolution treating patients worldwide. In addition, he is a published journal contributor and international lecturer. His experience with various patients of all ages and neurological conditions has given him a unique perspective on brain health and human performance. He is also well-versed in collaborating with other health care professionals, making him an invaluable asset to any care team. Dr. Trayford was awarded the Functional Neurologist of the Year distinction by the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation, where he is a proud member and conference lecturer. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Council for the Dementia Society of America and the Board of Directors for the International Society for Neuroregulation and Research. He is also a servant leader who has dedicated his adult life to serving multiple communities through Rotary International and other notable causes. When he’s not treating patients, Dr. Trayford usually reads or researches anything related to the brain, human performance, and leadership. He also loves spending time outdoors with his wife Denise, their two daughters, and dogs in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmichaeltrayford/

Leave a Comment

Find Out if Brain Rehabilitation Can Help


Get your questions answered and understand treatment options by one of our board-certified physicians with extensive functional neurology experience.

Consultations are free, 15-minute phone calls, scheduled Monday through Friday.

Recent Blog Posts

Overcoming Stroke: A Guide to Treatment and Recovery Strategies

At APEX Brain Centers, we recognize the urgency and complexity surrounding treating strokes. ...

Stroke: A Comprehensive Guide to Causes, Symptoms, and Recovery Pathways

At APEX Brain Centers, we understand that a stroke represents a critical event ...

Navigating Cognitive Decline: A Guide to Understanding and Management

Navigating the complex world of cognitive decline can be a challenging experience for ...

Unlocking the Mystery of Cognitive Decline: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Cognitive decline is a prevalent concern as individuals age, affecting memory, reasoning, attention, ...

Understanding Cognitive Decline: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding cognitive decline is essential in helping individuals cope with changes as they ...

From Science to Success: Breakthrough in Low-Level Laser Therapy Revolution

We understand that each individual's journey to brain health is unique at APEX ...
Overcoming Stroke: A Guide to Treatment and Recovery Strategies

Overcoming Stroke: A Guide to Treatment and Recovery Strategies

At APEX Brain Centers, we recognize the urgency and complexity surrounding treating strokes. When a stroke occurs, every ...
Navigating Cognitive Decline: A Guide to Understanding and Management

Navigating Cognitive Decline: A Guide to Understanding and Management

Navigating the complex world of cognitive decline can be a challenging experience for individuals and their families. As ...
Unlocking the Mystery of Cognitive Decline

Unlocking the Mystery of Cognitive Decline: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Cognitive decline is a prevalent concern as individuals age, affecting memory, reasoning, attention, processing speed, and mood. For ...
See if APEX Can Help

Schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our board-certified physicians.