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Causes of a Stroke Can Include Blood Clots and Burst Blood Vessels

There are two main causes of a stroke. The first is the formation of a blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to the brain, and the second is the bursting of a weakened cerebral blood vessel. Both of these occurrences can disrupt the flow of blood – and as a result, the flow of oxygen – to the brain.

Of these two main causes of a stroke, the most common is the development of a blood clot in one of the carotid arteries, which deliver blood to the brain. In some cases, the blood clot can develop elsewhere, commonly in the heart, and travel to a carotid artery through the blood stream. This causes what is known as an ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes account for approximately 80 to 85 percent of all total strokes.

Leading Factors of an Ischemic Stroke

The blood clots that cause ischemic strokes are typically the result of an accumulation of plaque inside the arteries. Plaque buildups can be caused by several different conditions, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The following factors also can contribute to the development of this type of stroke:

  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart diseases such as coronary heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, and heart failure

The other main cause of a stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. When this occurs, blood can pool in the brain (or in the space directly around it), causing intense swelling and pressure on the brain. Strokes that develop due to a cerebral aneurysm are known as hemorrhagic strokes.

There can be several different causes of a hemorrhagic stroke. The most common is high blood pressure, but less common causes include infections, tumors, blood-clotting deficiencies, and vascular malformations (abnormal tangles of blood vessels that divert blood from the arteries to the veins, rather than going directly to normal brain tissue).

At Tampa General Hospital, we offer comprehensive care for patients who experience both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. We have a dedicated stroke team that provides treatment 24/7 in one of the largest neuroscience ICUs in the country, and our ability to promptly identify and address the causes of a stroke enables us to tailor specialized treatment plans that can help patients experience the best possible outcomes. Additionally, as a comprehensive stroke center, TGH offers a full spectrum of services from emergency intervention through rehabilitation, enabling patients to avoid having to be transferred to another hospital for necessary care.

To schedule an appointment with the Heart and Vascular Institute, call 813-844-3900 or email

If you think that you or someone you know is experiencing a stroke, dial 9-1-1 immediately and ask for transportation to the nearest comprehensive stroke center.