A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.
Types of Stroke?
Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). A TIA (transient ischemic attack), or “mini stroke”, is caused by a temporary clot.
The major risk factors for stroke include: (from NIH)
- High blood pressure
- Heart and blood vessel diseases: Conditions that can cause blood clots or other blockages include coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, heart valve disease, and carotid artery disease.
- High levels
- Brain aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs): AVMs are tangles of poorly formed arteries and veins that can break open in the brain.
- Viral Infections or conditions that cause inflammation, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis:
- Age: A stroke can happen at any age, but the risk is higher for babies under the age of 1 and for adults. In adults, the risk increases with age.
- Sex: At younger ages, men are more likely than women to have a stroke. But women tend to live longer, so their lifetime risk of having a stroke is higher. Women who take birth control pills or use hormone replacement therapy are at higher risk. Women are also at higher risk during pregnancy and in the weeks after giving birth. High blood pressure during pregnancy — such as from preeclampsia — raises the risk of stroke later in life.
- Race and ethnicity: In the United States, stroke occurs more often in African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, and Hispanic adults than in white adults.
- Family history and : Your risk of having a stroke is higher if a parent or other family member has had a stroke, particularly at a younger age. Certain genes affect your stroke risk, including those that determine your blood type. People with blood type AB (which is not common) have a higher risk.
Other risk factors for stroke — some of which can be controlled — include: (from NIH)
- Anxiety, depression, and high stress levels, as well as working long hours and not having much contact with friends, family, or others outside the home
- Living or working in areas with air pollution
- Other medical conditions, such as certain bleeding disorders, sleep apnea, kidney disease, migraine headaches, and sickle cell disease
- Blood-thinners or other medicines that can lead to bleeding
- Other unhealthy lifestyle habits, including eating unhealthy foods, not getting regular physical activity, drinking alcohol, getting too much sleep (more than 9 hours), and using illegal drugs such as cocaine
- Overweight and obesity or carrying extra weight around your waist and stomach
- Medications Some medicines can raise your chances of stroke. For instance, blood-thinning drugs, which doctors suggest to prevent blood clots, can sometimes make a stroke more likely through bleeding. Studies have linked hormone therapy, used for menopause symptoms like hot flashes, with a higher risk of strokes. And low-dose estrogen in birth control pills may also make your odds go up.
What are the signs of stroke in men and women? (CDC)
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.
Act F.A.S.T. to identify stroke
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following test:
F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.