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Heart Health Library


History of Stroke

History of stroke

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, first recognized stroke over 2,400 years ago. At this time stroke was called apoplexy, which means "struck down by violence" in Greek. This was due to the fact that a person developed sudden paralysis and change in well-being. Doctors had little knowledge of the anatomy and function of the brain, the cause of stroke, or how to treat it.

It was not until the mid-1600s that Jacob Wepfer found that patients who died with apoplexy had bleeding in the brain. He also discovered that a blockage in one of the brain's blood vessels could cause apoplexy.

Medical science continued to study the cause, symptoms, and treatment of apoplexy and, finally, in 1928, apoplexy was divided into categories based on the cause of the blood vessel problem. This led to the terms stroke or "cerebral vascular accident (CVA)." Stroke is now often referred to as a "brain attack" to denote the fact that it is caused by a lack of blood supply to the brain, very much like a heart attack is caused by a lack of blood supply to the heart. The term brain attack also conveys a more urgent call for immediate action and emergency treatment by the general public.

Today, there is a wealth of information available on the cause, prevention, risk, and treatment of stroke. Although there is no cure, most stroke victims now have a good chance for survival and recovery. Immediate treatment, supportive care, and rehabilitation can all improve the quality of life for stroke victims.

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