WJMC - West Jefferson Medical Center

WJMC - West Jefferson Medical Center


Stroke Symptoms, Risk Factors
and Prevention


What is a Stroke?

Your brain is the control center for your whole body. It lets you see, hear, taste, smell, feel, think, and move around. Each area has special tasks to do, and some areas work together to get their jobs done. When your heart beats, it pumps blood to every part of your body. Blood carries oxygen to brain cells through arteries in and around the brain. Oxygen keeps the brain alive and working well.

When the brain's blood flow stops or leaks into the wrong place, brain cells in that area die. This is called a stroke. Brain cells that die will not recover (permanent brain damage). Other brain cells are in shock and will start working again after a while. No one can tell just how long it will take for these cells to begin working again. Most of the healing happens within the first year, but generally improves over time. Also, people may learn new skills to replace the ones they've lost.

Types of Stroke

Your stroke may be either a "blocking" stroke or a "bleeding" stroke.

Ischemic Stroke (Blocking)

WJMC - Types Of Stroke Is caused when a blood clot or plaque blocks blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. This blockage stops the brain from getting the oxygen is needs.

Hemorrhagic Stroke (Bleeding)

Is caused when a blood vessel in your brain bursts or leaks. This may be caused by high blood pressure or an aneurysm.

Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Some Signs of Stroke Include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, leg (or some combination) especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, slurred speech, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden difficulty swallowing/sudden drooling

If you have any of these symptoms or see someone else having them, call 9-1-1 immediately!
Remember to BE FAST!

WJMC - Proud member of LCMC

Risk Factors

What you CANNOT control:

  • Age - For every 10 years you live, your risk of having a stroke increases.
  • Gender - Women have more strokes than men each year, and stroke kills more women than men
  • Race - African Americans have 2 times greater risk of stroke than other races. Hispanics and Asians have the greatest risk for stroke from burst blood vessels.
  • Past Stroke or TIA - If you've already had a stroke or a TIA (a brief clot that blocks the blood supply to the brain), your risk for stroke is now greater. TIA’s do not cause lasting damage; how­ ever, they are a warning sign that you may have a stroke soon if you do not get on the right medicine and begin to make healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Family History - Your risk of a stroke is greater when heart attack, stroke or TIA runs in your family.
  • Atrial fibrillation or AFlb - This is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It happens when one or both of the upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) don't beat the way they should. This can cause blood to pool and a blood clot can form. If that clot breaks away from the heart, it can travel to the brain, where it can cause a stroke. Taking anticoagulant medicine, can help prevent this from happening.

What you CAN control:

  • High Blood Pressure - The #1 risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. Another name for this is hypertension. When you control your blood pressure, you can greatly reduce your risk of stroke. Talk to your doctor to learn what your blood pressure should be. If you are on blood pressure medication, you should take your medicine at the same time every day. You should also take your blood pressure daily.
  • Smoking - Smoking is a major risk for stroke because it causes your blood to clot easier. Each time you smoke, this increases the build-up of plaque in your arteries. Over time, your arteries narrow and your blood pressure increases as a result of the smoking and nicotine.
  • High Cholesterol - An unhealthy cholesterol balance can lead to fat deposits in the arteries. These deposits are called plaque. Plaque narrows the arteries and can lead to stroke. Follow your doctor's guidelines for regular cholesterol testing. The best time for a cholesterol check is after you have not eaten for several hours. You should learn what your cholesterol numbers are.
  • Obesity - Excess weight increases your risk of stroke. People who have a stroke or heart disease often have excess body fat around their lower belly, or abdomen. This is sometimes called an 'apple shape'. Obesity can also bring other risk factors with it, such as high blood pressure, higher bad cholesterol and diabetes. Weight control and exercise improve your circulation and help reduce other risk factors.
  • Alcohol, Caffeine, Drug Use - Heavy alcohol use increases the risk for stroke. Drinking three or more cups of coffee a day may increase the risk of stroke in older men with high blood pressure. Use of street drugs, especially cocaine and amphetamines, is a major stroke risk. Using steroids for body building increases the risk of stroke.
  • Stress - Studies show a link between mental stress and the narrowing of the carotid arteries. Learning and practicing ways to reduce stress may help reduce your stroke risk.
  • Poor Nutrition - A diet high in unhealthy fat, sugar and salt puts you at risk for stroke. Studies show that eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day will reduce your risk of stroke by 30%.

TIAs – NOT a “mini stroke”

A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, occurs when there is a temporarily loss of blood flow to a particular area of the brain. The signs and symptoms of a TIA are the same as a stroke and may last for minutes or hours. The difference between an acute ischemic stroke and a TIA is that blood flow is restored on its own so symptoms go away on their own.

While the symptoms resolve on their own, referring to a TIA as a “mini stroke” minimizes its importance. It is important to recognize that a TIA is the body’s warning sign that a stroke may occur in the future and is therefore as dangerous as a stroke. There is an increased risk for stroke in the days, weeks, and months following a TIA. In order to reduce this risk, it is very important to seek medical attention as soon as you identify TIA symptoms so you risk factors can be assessed and managed.


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