What is A Stroke?

Understanding the signs of a stroke

By learning about the symptoms of a stroke, or brain attack, and how best to react, you and your loved ones can go a long way toward stroke prevention. 

  • Stroke is a leading cause of death and adult disability in America
  • 80% of strokes can be prevented 

Understanding Stroke 

Strokes occur when a clot blocks an artery carrying blood from the heart to the body or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these happens, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. Speech, movement and memory can be affected depending on the area of the brain damage. 

Learn more about stroke at the National Stroke Association website, or the American Stroke Association website

Act F.A.S.T. 

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test: 

FACE                    Ask the person to smile.
                             Does one side of the face droop? 

ARMS                   Ask the person to raise both arms.
                             Does one arm drift downward? 

SPEECH               Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
                             Are the words slurred?  Can he or she repeat the sentence correctly? 

TIME                    If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is critical. Call 911 or get to the                                                                         hospital fast. Brain cells are dying. 

Stroke Symptoms 

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg — especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause 

Call 911 immediately if you or a loved one has any of these symptoms. 

Note the time the first symptom occurred. This information is important to your healthcare provider and can affect treatment. 

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you may have had a TIA or mini-stroke. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) are a warning sign that a stroke could happen in the future. Speak with a physician. 

Stroke Risk Factors: Am I at risk for a stroke? 

Anyone can have a stroke no matter their age, race or gender. But, the chances of having a stroke increase if you have certain risk factors, or criteria that can cause a stroke. 

There are two types of risk factors for stroke: controllable and uncontrollable. Both types can be managed best by working with a doctor, who can prescribe medications and advise on how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. 

Controllable Risk Factors 

Controllable risk factors generally fall into two categories: Lifestyle risk factors or medical risk factors. Lifestyle risk factors can often be changed, while medical risk factors can usually be treated. 

  • High blood Pressure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Tobacco use and smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity 

Uncontrollable Risk Factors 

Uncontrollable risk factors include age, ethnicity or family history of stroke or TIA. 

  • Age — Stroke risk increases with age
  • Gender —Women have more strokes every year than do men, primarily because they live longer.
  • Race — African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders have a greater risk of stroke than do Caucasians
  • Family history
  • Previous stroke or TIA
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia
  • Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO or hole in the heart) 
Familiarize yourself with your personal risk for stroke. Use this easy-to-use Stroke Risk Scorecard from the National Stroke Association. Discuss your scorecard results with a doctor who can help assess your risk factors and manage and treat any controllable risk factors. Remember: It is important to always take medications as a doctor prescribes to stay on top of stroke prevention

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