Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot, or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, and brain cells die.
About 40 percent of stroke deaths occur in males, and 60 percent in females. African Americans' risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice that of whites. The country's highest death rates due to stroke are in the southeastern United States.
Stroke Risk Factors
Anyone can have a stroke, but certain behaviors and medical conditions can increase your chances. The major risk factors for stroke are:
- High Blood Pressure
- Excessive Alcohol Use
- Physical Inactivity
- High Cholesterol
- Heart Disease
- Tobacco Use and Smoking
- Abnormal Heart Rhythm
Fortunately, anyone can take steps to lower their risk:
- Know your personal risk factors, including diagnosed high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
- Be physically active and exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Avoid cigarette smoke. People who smoke should seek help to stop now.
- Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and call 9-1-1 right away if someone is suspected of having a stroke.
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What to do if you think someone is having a stroke
Immediately call 9-1-1 or the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number so an ambulance can be sent. Also, check the time so you will know when the first symptoms appeared. A clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may improve the chances of getting better but only if you get help right away.
A TIA or transient ischemic attack is a "warning stroke" or "mini-stroke" that produces stroke-like symptoms. TIA symptoms usually only last a few minutes but, if left untreated, people who have TIAs have a high risk of stroke. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke.
Beyond F.A.S.T. — Other Symptoms you should know:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addresses stroke prevention through state-based programs to prevent heart disease and stroke, through the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry, and through many other partnerships. Information about stroke and stroke prevention is available at http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/ and www.strokeassociation.org
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg
- Sudden confusion or trouble 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
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