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
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a previous stroke or TIA ("mini-stroke")
Behaviors that contribute to stroke include:
- 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)