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Stroke Symptoms and Risk Factors

What is a Stroke?

A stroke (also known as a cerebral vascular accident or brain attack) occurs when the blood supply to your brain is reduced or interrupted by a blood clot or a hemorrhage. This deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients and causes brain cells to die. Roughly 2 million brain cells die during every minute of a stroke, increasing risk of death or brain damage.

In the United States, nearly:

  • 800,000 people have a stroke each year.
  • 600,000 of these are first (new) strokes.
  • 185,000 strokes (1 in 4) are in people who have had a stroke before.
  • 130,000 Americans die from stroke each year; that’s one person every 4 minutes.

Stroke Warning Signs

The five warning signs of stroke are:

  1. Sudden onset of weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  2. Sudden speech difficulty or confusion
  3. Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  4. Sudden onset of dizziness, trouble walking or loss of balance
  5. Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately and the ambulance will take you to the nearest emergency room.

Stroke Risk Factors

The following are risk factors for stroke and may be modified to lower your risk:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Tobacco usage
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

Stroke Types

There are two types of stroke:

  1. Ischemic stroke: Occurs when blood vessels are blocked by a clot. 87 percent of strokes are ischemic.
  2. Hemorrhagic strokeOccurs as a result of a rupture or perforation of blood vessels within the brain. The most important risk factor for hemorrhagic strokes is arterial hypertension.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA): Commonly referred as “mini-strokes,” a TIA may only last for a few minutes. While symptoms are temporary, TIAs are a warning sign of the potential for a future stroke. The occurrence of TIAs increase with age. Approximately 40 percent of people who experience a TIA will go on to have a stroke.

Stroke Prevention

The prevention of stroke may be thought of as a three-part process:

  1. Modification of lifestyle
  2. Selection of the appropriate prevention medications (e.g., aspirin, ClopidogrelTiclopidine)
  3. Surgical procedures to remove blockages in arteries that could lead to a stroke