Stroke

A stroke happens when blood flow and oxygen to the brain is blocked because a blood vessel is blocked by a blood clot or breaks. Brain cells start to die and can result in brain damage. A stroke may cause the loss of brain-controlled activities, such as speech, movement and memory.

People who suffer a small stroke may have minor problems later, like weakness in an arm or leg. On the other hand, people who've had a major stroke may be paralyzed or lose their ability to speak. Some people get better, but many have problems that last forever.

A stroke is a serious condition and needs to be treated right away. Quick treatment lowers the risk of long-term problems or death. Get to know the symptoms including:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs
  • Trouble speaking, confusion or difficulty understanding others
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, problems walking, or having a hard time standing up
  • Severe headache

A stroke can happen to anyone, but certain things can raise your chance of having a stroke. These include certain conditions, behaviors or family history.

Medical conditions that increase the risk of a stroke:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a previous stroke or TIA ("mini-stroke")

Behaviors that contribute to stroke include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Lack of exercise

Family History can play a role:

  • Family history of stroke can increase your chances of having a stroke
  • Older people are more likely to have a stroke
  • Men are more likely to have a stroke than women
  • Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians are more likely to have a stroke than Caucasians or Asians.

There are things you can do to lower your risk for a stroke, such as:

  • Keep high blood pressure under control
  • Keep diabetes under control
  • Don't smoke
  • Reduce cholesterol level
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a healthy, low-salt diet
  • Know your family history

Sources: American Stroke Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Stroke Association