Warning Signs of a Stroke
Symptoms of a stroke often appear suddenly, without warning. If you have one or more of the following symptoms, call your doctor, 911, or your local emergency number immediately. The sooner you get treatment for a stroke, the more likely you are to recover. These symptoms may be accompanied by drowsiness, nausea, or vomiting.
• sudden numbness or weakness in your face, an arm or a leg, or on one side of your body
• sudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding speech
• sudden difficulty with vision (such as dimness or double vision) in one or both eyes
• sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
• sudden severe headache with no obvious cause
A stroke can occur in anyone at any age. However, the following factors can increase your risk of having a stroke:
• High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke. If your blood pressure is high (more than 140/90), work with your doctor to lower it. High blood pressure in blood vessels in the brain can cause them to rupture. It also can cause blood vessels to narrow by thickening their walls. Obstructions such as blood clots and tiny pieces of fatty plaque may lodge in blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.
• Smoking has been linked to the buildup of fatty deposits in the walls of the carotid arteries, the main arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain. Blockage of these arteries is a leading cause of stroke in white Americans. In addition, smoking raises blood pressure, reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, and makes blood thicker and more likely to clot.
• Heart disease can produce blood clots that may break loose and block blood vessels in or leading to the brain. Preventing or treating heart disease can reduce the risk of developing blood clots.
• Prior TIAs or strokes indicate that a problem exists in the blood vessels supplying the brain. Contact your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have had a TIA. Carefully following your doctor’s advice will reduce your risk for stroke.
• Diabetes increases fatty deposits inside blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. If blood glucose levels are high at the time of a stroke, the damage to the brain can be severe. Keeping diabetes under control will help reduce the risk of stroke.