Embolic Stroke: Overview and More

Embolic stroke is a type of ischemic stroke that occurs when a blood clot or a cholesterol plaque wanders into the brain and becomes trapped inside an artery. Other, less frequent causes of embolic strokes include:

  • Septic Emboli (infectious clot migrates)
  • Atmospheric Air (air enters the bloodstream)
  • Embolic Myxoma (heart tumors dislodge)
  • Deep Venous Thromboses (leg blood clots)
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What Is a Stroke?

A stroke is an emergency medical event characterized by interrupted or reduced blood flow to the brain. When a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (ruptures), the brain cannot get the blood it needs to function - ultimately causing brain cell death. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and also a leading cause of disability.

What Are the Types of Stroke?

Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). A TIA (transient ischemic attack), or "mini-stroke", is caused by a temporary clot.

What Are the Effects of a Stroke?

The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions. If a stroke occurs and blood flow can't reach the region that controls a particular body function, that part of the body won't work as it should.

Risk Factors of a Stroke

  • Age: The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55. While stroke is common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes.
  • Heredity (Family History): Your stroke risk may be greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke. 
  • Race: African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do. This is partly because blacks have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Sex (gender): Each year, women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men. Use of birth control pills, pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use, and smoking, and post-menopausal hormone therapy may pose special stroke risks for women. 
  • Prior Stroke, TIA, or Heart Attack: The risk of stroke for someone who has already had one is many times that of a person who has not. Transient ischemic attacks are "warning strokes" that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. TIAs are strong predictors of stroke. A person who's had one or more TIAs is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. TIA should be considered a medical emergency and followed up immediately with a healthcare professional. If you've had a heart attack, you're at higher risk of having a stroke, too.
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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading Causes of Death. Last reviewed October 30, 2020.

  2. Khare S. Risk factors of transient ischemic attack: An overview. J Midlife Health. 2016;7(1):2-7. doi:10.4103/0976-7800.179166

Additional Reading
  • American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke