Stroke Fact Sheet

A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a “brain attack.” If blood flow is cut off for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get blood and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing lasting damage.

There are two major types of stroke. The first type is called an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This may happen in two ways: A clot may form in an artery that is already very narrow. This is called a thrombotic stroke. Or, a clot may break off from another place in the blood vessels of the brain, or from some other part of the body, and travel up to the brain. This is called cerebral embolism, or an embolic stroke. The second type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open. This causes blood to leak into the brain. Some people have defects in the blood vessels of the brain that make this more likely. These defects may include an aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation

Types of Stroke

Ischemic stroke: occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This may happen in two ways: A clot may form in an artery that is already very narrow. This is called a thrombotic stroke. Or, a clot may break off from another place in the blood vessels of the brain, or from some other part of the body, and travel up to the brain. This is called cerebral embolism, or an embolic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke: occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open. This causes blood to leak into the brain. Some people have defects in the blood vessels of the brain that make this more likely. These defects may include: an aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

Symptoms

Stroke symptoms in both men and women:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of 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 coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Women may report unique stroke symptoms:
  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • General weakness
  • Difficulty or shortness of breath
  • Confusion, unresponsive or disorientation
  • Sudden behavioral change
  • Agitation
  • Hallucination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Hiccups

Prevention

  • Do not smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol levels.
  • Control high blood pressure.
  • Control diabetes.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit alcohol.

Risk Factors

  • Age. Risk of stroke increases with age.
  • Gender. Men have a higher risk of getting heart disease than women except in older adults.
  • Genes. If your parents had a stroke, you are at higher risk.
  • Race. African-Americans, Mexicans Americans, American Indians, Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans have a higher risk for heart problems.
  • Disease. Cancer, chronic kidney disease, and some types of arthritis increase stroke risk.
Unique risk factors in women include:
  • Women who experience migraines with aura and smoke are advised to stop smoking immediately.
  • Women who are pregnant should monitor their blood pressure during and after pregnancy to lower the risk of stroke.
  • Women over 75 should be screened for Atrial Fibrillation.
  • Women should be screened for high blood pressure prior to starting a birth control regimen.
  • Women with concerns about high blood pressure or stroke should consult a doctor.

Think F.A.S.T.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test:

FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Note the time when any of these symptoms first appear. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long term disability for the most common type of stroke.