Learn more about the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke.
What is a stroke?
According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, a stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. It is caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain (ischemic stroke) or by the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).
A stroke is a medical emergency. Recognizing and responding immediately to warning signs and symptoms of a stroke can significantly improve your rate of survival and recovery.
What are the warning signs and symptoms?
In order to minimize the amount of harm caused by a stroke, it is important to be able to recognize and identify warning signs that a stroke may be occurring. The following are common signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Weakness—sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.
- Trouble speaking—sudden difficulty speaking or understanding words, or sudden confusion, even if temporary.
- Vision problems—sudden trouble with vision, especially blurriness, even if temporary.
- Headache—sudden severe and unusual headache.
- Dizziness- sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the previous symptoms.
What are some common risk factors associated with strokes?
There are a variety of risk factors that can increase your chance of stroke. These include:
- Age—As you get older, your risk of heart disease and stroke increases. Although strokes can occur at any age, most occur in people over 65.
- Gender—Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 or postmenopausal women are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Family History—Your risk of heart disease is increased if close family members developed heart disease before age 55 or, in the case of female relatives, before menopause.
- History of Stroke—If you’ve had a previous stroke, your risk of stroke is greater.
- High blood pressure—The number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure is when the blood pressure in your arteries is elevated and your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through the blood vessels.
- High blood cholesterol—High cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaque in the artery walls, narrowing your arteries, making it more difficult for blood to flow through your heart and body.
- Obesity—Being overweight can contribute to high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes, therefore increasing your risk of stroke or heart disease.
- Diabetes—Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), coronary artery disease and stroke, particularly if your blood sugar levels are poorly controlled.
- Stress—The relationship between stress and heart disease and stroke is not completely clear. However, some people with high levels of stress or prolonged stress may have higher blood cholesterol or increased blood pressure.