A stroke is a brain attack. It occurs when an artery bringing blood to
the brain becomes blocked or ruptures, depriving part of the brain from
receiving the oxygen that it needs. The affected portion of the brain
loses function, causing symptoms to appear.
What are the warning signs of a stroke?
Warning signs of a stroke include:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially
on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you experience any of these warning signs, seek medical attention
What is a TIA?
TIA stands for transient ischemic attack. A TIA is sometimes
called a "warning stroke." It causes a temporary loss of function,
lasting a few minutes to several hours. For example, you may have
weakness of an arm and/or a leg that eventually goes away. Even though
it goes away, a TIA is a serious warning sign of stroke, and you should
seek medical attention immediately.
How common is stroke?
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Stroke occurs
more commonly in the older age groups and is more common in people who
have already had a stroke or TIA.
What is my chance of having a stroke?
The chance of stroke is increased by a number of things that are called
stroke risk factors. Some factors cannot be changed. These include: age
(the older a person gets, the greater the risk for stroke), gender (men
are at greater risk), race (African Americans are at greater risk),
family history and prior strokes or TIAs.
Other risk factors can be modified through treatment or lifestyle
changes. Examples of these include: high blood pressure, diabetes, heart
disease, high cholesterol, smoking, lack of exercise and excessive
Things you can do to lower your risk of stroke:
Have regular checkups with your doctor to check for stroke risk
Take part in a stroke screening
Make sure to treat high blood pressure, heart disease or
diabetes if you have any of these conditions
Have your cholesterol and lipid levels measured
Become physically active
Limit your alcohol intake
What do I do if I am having (or someone I'm with is having) symptoms of
Call 911 in order to have an ambulance take you to the hospital as
quickly as possible. For many adults who sustain a stroke, intervention
within a three-hour "golden window" can minimize most damage to the
brain. Too often, however symptoms are not recognized soon enough.
A new drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can arrest the
effects of stroke by dissolving clots that block vital blood flow to the
brain. But it's only effective if it is administered within the crucial
three-hour window following the onset of a stroke or TIA. In addition to
tPA, other therapies are available but must also be given within hours
of the onset of stroke symptoms.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.