A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes.
SymptomsIf you or someone you’re with may be having a stroke, pay particular attention to the time the symptoms began. Some treatment options are most effective when given soon after a stroke begins. Signs and symptoms of stroke include:
- Trouble speaking and understanding what others are saying. You may experience confusion, slur your words or have difficulty understanding speech.
- Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg. You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg. This often affects just one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Also, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
- Problems seeing in one or both eyes. You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.
- Headache. A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate that you’re having a stroke.
- Trouble walking. You may stumble or lose your balance. You may also have sudden dizziness or a loss of coordination.
Types of StrokeThere are three main types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke: This is the most common type of stroke. A blood clot prevents blood and oxygen from reaching the brain.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and normally occur as a result of aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).
- Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs): Also referred to as a mini-stroke, these occur after blood flow fails to reach part of the brain. Normal blood flow resumes after a short amount of time, and symptoms cease.
Lifestyle risk factors
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy or binge drinking
- Use of illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine
Medical risk factors
- High blood pressure
- Cigarette smoking or secondhand smoke exposure
- High cholesterol
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation
- Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack
- Age — People age 55 or older have a higher risk of stroke than do younger people.
- Race — African Americans have a higher risk of stroke than do people of other races.
- Sex — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women. Women are usually older when they have strokes, and they’re more likely to die of strokes than are men.
- Hormones — Use of birth control pills or hormone therapies that include estrogen increases risk.
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LIVE A BETTER LIFESTYLE TO AVOID STROKEMany stroke prevention strategies are the same as strategies to prevent heart disease. In general, healthy lifestyle recommendations include:
- Controlling high blood pressure (hypertension). This is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your stroke risk. If you’ve had a stroke, lowering your blood pressure can help prevent a subsequent TIA or stroke. Healthy lifestyle changes and medications are often used to treat high blood pressure.
- Lowering the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet. Eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats, may reduce the buildup in your arteries. If you can’t control your cholesterol through dietary changes.
- Quitting tobacco use. Smoking raises the risk of stroke for smokers and nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Quitting tobacco use reduces your risk of stroke.
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- Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight contributes to other stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. A diet containing five or more daily servings of fruits or vegetables may reduce your risk of stroke. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables and whole grains, may be helpful.
- Exercising regularly. Aerobic exercise reduces your risk of stroke in many ways. Exercise can lower your blood pressure, increase your levels of good cholesterol, and improve the overall health of your blood vessels and heart. It also helps you lose weight, control diabetes and reduce stress. Gradually work up to at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity — such as walking, jogging, swimming or bicycling — on most, if not all, days of the week.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation, if Possible not at all Heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk of high blood pressure, ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes. Alcohol may also interact with other drugs you’re taking. However, drinking small to moderate amounts of alcohol, such as one drink a day, may help prevent ischemic stroke and decrease your blood’s clotting tendency. Talk to your doctor about what’s appropriate for you.
- Avoiding illegal drugs. Certain street drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, are established risk factors for a TIA or a stroke.