Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 130,000 people each year. According to the American Stroke Association, 80% of strokes are preventable. Learn the risk factors, signs, and symptoms so that you can recognize a stroke and take necessary steps to reduce your risk.

It is a common myth that strokes affect the heart, but strokes actually occur in the brain. During a stroke, blood flow to certain parts of the brain is cut off, brain cells begin to die, and functions controlled by that part of the brain are lost. There are two different types of stroke: a hemmorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leading to the brain bursts, and an ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leading to the brain is blocked by a blood clot.

Stroke Risk Factors

Some risk factors, like age and family history, are out of our control. However, there are many factors that we can control. By identifying your own personal risk factors and making lifestyle changes, you can drastically reduce your risk of stroke. High blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke. People with high blood pressure are 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those with normal blood pressure. There are a few steps you can take to reduce your blood pressure and risk of stroke:

  • Improve your diet – Limit saturated fats, sugars and salt, and increase intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Get active – Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day. Activities that get the heart pumping, like running, swimming, or dancing, are especially important for reducing blood pressure. These activities strengthen the heart so that it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood through the body.
  • Avoid smoking – Smokers are twice as likely to have a stroke than non smokers.

It is important to quickly recognize a stroke and seek medical attention as soon as possible. While stroke symptoms can vary from person to person, there are a few common signs to watch for. Check out the box below for some identifiable warning signs of stroke.


Suspect someone is having a stroke? Act FAST:

  • F – Face drooping – Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s face drooping?
  • A – Arm weakness – Does the person notice numbness, weakness, or tingling in one arm?
  • S – Speech slurring – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the speech slurred or difficult to understand?
  • T – Time to call 911 – If you notice ANY of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 immediately.


Sources: CDC, American Stroke Association. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.