Stroke Warning Signs & Risk Factors

When a stroke occurs, timing is everything.

When a stroke occurs, every minute you save could be a minute that saves your brain.  After symptoms first appear, there is a critical three-hour window in which treatment with an intravenous activator is proven to decrease the risk and extent of permanent brain injury and associated disability.  After the three-hour time window, options for therapy depend on the individual’s circumstances.

That is why it is vital to know the warning signs of a stroke – and if you experience them, get expert treatment immediately.  If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the warning signs, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Jewish Emergency Room.

Stroke Warning Signs

  • Sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking and understanding words and phrases
  • Sudden blurred  or decreased vision, particularly in one eye
  • Unexplained dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sudden, severe or unexplained headache
  • Sudden fainting, convulsions or coma (person will not wake up)

Stroke Risk Factors

Many risk factors for stroke can be managed and controlled.  Things you can do to reduce your stroke risk factors include:

Manage High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure weakens the arteries, putting them at risk of bursting.  In other cases, arteries may form clots that obstruct blood flow to the brain, or the clots may break off and lodge in the brain’s arteries.

Stop Smoking – Cigarette smoking injures blood vessel walls and promotes hardening of the arteries.  Smoking also elevates blood pressure and is harmful to the lungs (which ultimately provide the oxygen to your blood that your brain needs.)

Limit Alcohol Intake – Heavy drinking, including “binge” drinking, is associated with strokes.

Lower Your Cholesterol – A high-fat diet contributes to the formation of plaque in the arteries, which can obstruct blood flow or break apart and cause blockages in the brain’s blood vessels.

Control Your Weight – Being overweight puts more strain on the circulatory system and puts you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes – all risk factors for a stroke.

Treat Irregular Heartbeat – If you have any kind of heart trouble, be sure your physician is aware of it and that you receive, and follow, a treatment plan.

Manage Known Heart Disease – Many stroke risk factors are the same as those for heart disease.  If you have heart disease, follow your physician’s advice – you’ll be controlling your risk for strokes at the same time.

Treat Diabetes – The association between diabetes and increased stroke risk seems to be related to the circulatory problems caused by diabetes.  Managing diabetes correctly reduces cardiovascular complications of the disease.

In addition, there are risk factors for a stroke that are beyond your control.  In these situations, it is even more important to attend to the risk factors you can do something about.  What you can’t control:

Race: Strokes occur more frequently in African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics.

Age: Strokes are more common in people age 55 and older.

Heredity: A family history of stroke increases the odds that you may suffer from one.

Gender: Women are more susceptible to strokes.



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Last Updated: 2/4/2015