Stroke Symptoms and Risk Factors
Find out the most common stroke symptoms and risk factors. Learn how to identify the first signs of a stroke and improve your odds of a positive outcome.
A stroke is a very serious medical event and must be addressed immediately. In as recent as 2010, approximately 17 million people have had a stroke at some point. When a stroke happens, poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death. This is also known as the following:
- Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA)
- Cerebrovascular Insult (CVI)
- Brain Attack (transient ischemic attack)
The two main types of stroke are Ischemic (due to lack of blood flow and Hemorrhagic (due to bleeding). In both of these instances, a part of the brain does not function properly. This is a very serious issue and can lead to many complications. Many victims are left disabled (75% of them are rendered disabled enough that stroke can decrease their employability).
Stroke symptoms can appear after the stroke has occurred and include the following:
- Trouble speaking and understanding
- Trouble walking
- Loss of vision
- Paralysis or numbness in face, arm or leg
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Unexplained dizziness
As mentioned, the main cause of a stroke is the interruption or reduction of a blood supply to the brain. When this happens, the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients and brain cells die. Blocked arteries, leading or bursting of blood vessels or even a temporary reduction of blood flow to the brain are all causes. Ischemic strokes are more common than hemorrhagic strokes. Just around 85% of strokes are ischemic. If the arteries to the brain are narrowed or blocked, blood flow becomes reduced. These strokes can occur in the form of thrombotic (a blood clot forming in one of the arteries supplying blood to the brain) or embolic (a blood clot forms away from your brain and is sweat through your arteries and lodges in your brain arteries).
Brain attacks are another cause of strokes. They are also known as ministrokes, and are just a quick period of symptoms very similar to stroke symptoms. These are often less than five minutes and result in a temporary decrease of blood supply to your brain. The blockage is temporary and the brain attack doesn’t leave lasting symptoms, but this all is all very serious and leads to greater risk of a full stroke in the future.
Risk factors for stroke are a combination of lifestyle and medical factors. These include the following:
- Lack of physical activity
- Use of cocaine
- Use of methamphetamines
- Overweight or obesity
- Blood pressure higher than 120/80
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- History of cardiovascular disease
Personal or family medical history may put you at greater risk of stroke, depending on genetics. In addition, African Americans are at the highest risk for stroke and males are commonly at higher risk than females.
If you or someone know you know is exhibiting the signs of stroke, timely treatment is of the essence. Survival and recovery almost solely depends on quick reaction time. Call 911 or for emergency services, even if it’s just a brain attack. Treatment may need to begin within hours of symptoms. Early treatment can prevent fatal or disabling conditions from happening.