Glossary of terms


Acute Stroke: A stage of stroke that starts at the beginning of symptoms and lasts for a few hours after.

Activities of daily living (ADLs): Activities a person performs for self-care (feeding, grooming, bathing, dressing), work, homemaking, and leisure; ability to perform ADLs is often used as a measure of ability/disability

Agnosia: The inability to process and recognize sensory information like recognizing objects, persons, shapes or smells. It is not memory loss.

Aneurysm: A weak or thin spot of an artery wall that has stretched or ballooned out from the wall and filled with blood.

Aphasia: Difficulty understanding what is said, finding the words and putting words in sentences, and difficulty reading and writing words or sentences.

Apraxia: When your brain has difficulty organizing muscle movements in the correct order.

Arteritis: inflammation of an artery.

Atherosclerosis: A disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. This narrows the arteries and blocks blood flow to the brain, which increases the risk for a stroke.

Atrial Fibrillation: A heart rhythm disorder that can lead to the formation of blood clots that may cause a stroke.


Bilateral: A term which means involving or affecting both sides. Regarding stroke, it is usually used to describe something that affects both sides of the body, for example weakness.

Blood pressure: The measure of how strongly the blood presses against the walls of the arteries as it is pumped around the body. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). A blood pressure reading has two figures, for example 120/80mmHg. The first figure is the pressure when the heart beats (systolic blood pressure) and the second figure is the pressure between beats (diastolic blood pressure). High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke.

Blood vessels: They form part of the circulatory system that transports blood throughout the body. There are three major types of blood vessels. Arteries carry the blood containing oxygen and nutrients away from the heart out to the rest of the body. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels within the tissues of the body, and veins carry blood containing waste products like carbon dioxide back toward the heart and lungs.

Brainstem: This is the stem-like part of the brain, which links the two halves (hemispheres) of the brain to the spinal cord. It controls the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The brain stem contains some vital nerve cells involved with breathing, the heart, the eyes and many other important functions. A stroke that occurs in the brainstem can be very serious and can leave someone with locked-in syndrome – where someone is completely paralysed apart from eye movements, but they usually have full awareness.


Carotid artery: An artery, located on either side of the neck, which supplies the front part of the brain with blood.

Central Stroke Pain (Central Pain Syndrome): Pain that can occur after stroke as a result of damage to an area in the brain called the thalamus. The pain can be a mixture of sensations, including heat and cold burning, tingling, numbness, sharp stabbing and underlying aching pain.

Cerebrospinal fluid: Clear fluid that bathes the brain and spine.

Cerebrovascular Disease: One or more diseases caused by blood flow (circulation) problems, such as blood flow restriction or a blockage or clot, in vessels that supply blood to the brain.

Cholesterol: A waxy substance produced naturally by the liver and also found in foods. Excess cholesterol leads to a buildup of plaque in the arteries and increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Cognitive Impairment: Difficulty with thinking abilities such as paying attention, memory, communication and problem solving.


Depression: A medical condition in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interferes with everyday life for weeks or more and is common after a stroke.

Diabetes: The pancreas does not make enough insulin (a hormone that allows the body to absorb sugar). This prevents the body from properly processing food for use as energy and causes glucose (sugar) to build up in your blood. A disease that increases a person’s risk for stroke.

Dysarthria: Difficulty saying words clearly due to problems with muscle strength and coordination.

Dysphagia: Difficulty with swallowing.


Edema: Swelling.

Embolic Stroke: A stroke caused by an embolus (a free-floating mass traveling through the bloodstream). The embolus may be a blood clot (thrombus), a ball of fat, a bubble of air or other gas (gas embolism), or foreign material.

Embolus: A clot, plaque or other material that travels from one vessel in the body to another. A stroke caused by a clot that forms in the heart and then goes to the brain is called an embolic stroke or cardioemoblic stroke.

Endothelial wall: A flat layer of cells that make up the inside lining of a blood vessel.


Hemiparesis: Weakness on one side of the body.

Hemiplegia: Complete paralysis on one side of the body.

Hemorrhagic Stroke: Sudden bleeding into or around the brain. It is also called a brain hemorrhage, or brain bleed.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) Also known as “good cholesterol”: HDL helps move the “bad cholesterol” from the arteries back to the liver so it can break down and leave the body.

Hyperlipidemia (High Cholesterol): Too many lipids (fat) in the blood. Cholesterol and triglycerides (another fat) can form plaque between artery walls, causing a blockage or a clot that can travel throughout the body, and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): Persistently high arterial (artery) blood pressure. This means a measurement greater than or equal to 140 mm/Hg systolic (top number) pressure over 90 mm/Hg diastolic (bottom number) pressure.

Hypoxia: A state of decreased oxygen delivery to a cell so that the oxygen falls below normal levels.


Infarct: An area of tissue that is dead because of a loss of blood supply.

Infarction: A sudden loss of blood supply to tissue causing the tissue to die.

Intracerebral Hemorrhage (ICH): A type of stroke that occurs when a vessel within the brain leaks blood into the brain.

Ischemic Penumbra: Areas of damaged but still living brain cells arranged in a patchwork pattern around areas of dead brain cells.

Ischemic Stroke: Damage to the brain caused by lack of blood flow usually from a clot.


Lacunar Infarction: Blockage of a small artery deep in the brain resulting in a small area of damaged brain tissue. Large Vessel Disease Abnormalities in the large brain arteries.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Also known as the “bad cholesterol”; a compound that carries most of the total cholesterol in the blood and deposits the excess along the inside of arterial walls.


Micro hemorrhage: A tiny area of bleeding in brain tissue.

Muscle Tone Contraction of a muscle or the muscles resistance to a stretch during a resting state.

Muscle Tension Muscles of the body remain semi-contracted for a period of time in the resting state.


Neuroplasticity: The potential for the brain to reorganize and adapt as needed by creating new neural pathways.


Platelets: Structures found in blood that are known primarily for their role in blood clotting.

Post Stroke Fatigue: Often confused with “being tired.” It arrives without warning and rest does not always make it better. It may feel like you are hitting the wall, physically, emotionally, and/or mentally.


Spasticity: A condition in which there is an abnormal increase in muscle tone or stiffness of muscle, which might interfere with movement, speech, or cause discomfort or pain.

Stenosis: Narrowing of an artery due to the buildup of plaque within the artery. Stroke Occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly interrupted or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding brain cells. There are two types of stroke: ischemic (clot) or hemorrhagic (bleeding)

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: Bleeding within the outer covering of the brain into the clear fluid that surrounds the brain.


Thrombolysis: The breakdown (lysis) of blood clots by clot busting agents.

Thrombosis: The formation of a blood clot in one of the brain arteries of the head or neck that stays attached to the artery wall until it grows large enough to block blood flow.

Thrombus: A blood clot that forms in a vessel and remains there.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Short-lived stroke symptoms that does not last and does no permanent damage.


Vasospasm: A problem that can occur after a brain bleed in which the blood vessels narrow and possibly cause ischemic stroke.

Vertebral artery: A major artery on either side of the neck that supplies blood to the back of the brain.