The Basics: Overview
You can help reduce your risk of stroke by making healthy lifestyle changes.
These are the most important steps you can take to lower your risk of stroke:
- Keep your blood pressure in the normal range.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Keep your blood sugar (glucose) in the normal range.
- If you have heart disease, treat it.
- Keep your cholesterol (“koh-LEHS-tuh-rahl”) levels in the normal range.
- Stay active and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat healthy.
Making these healthy changes can also help lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Learn more about healthy living habits that can help prevent stroke:
The Basics: Am I at Risk?
Am I at risk for stroke?
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke. High blood pressure has no signs or symptoms, so it's important to get your blood pressure checked regularly.
Ask your doctor how often you need to get your blood pressure checked. You can also ask whether measuring your blood pressure at home is right for you.
Other risk factors for stroke include:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Physical inactivity and obesity
- An irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)
- High cholesterol
You are at greater risk of having a stroke as you grow older. You may also be more at risk if someone in your family has had a stroke. Make sure you know your family’s medical history and share it with your doctor.
The Basics: Definition
What is a stroke?
A stroke is sometimes called a “brain attack.” A stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked, which can hurt or kill cells in the brain.
Stroke is a leading cause of death in adults. It’s also a common cause of brain damage and long-term disability.
A stroke can cause long-term problems like:
- Trouble thinking and speaking
- Paralysis (not being able to move some parts of the body)
- Trouble controlling or expressing emotions
The Basics: Signs
What are the signs of a stroke?
A stroke happens suddenly – and usually with little warning. Signs of a stroke include:
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or trouble understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg – especially on one side of the body
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Having a stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 right away if you or someone else shows signs of stroke.
Your chances of survival and recovery from a stroke are better if you get emergency treatment right away.
What is a mini-stroke?
A mini-stroke, also called a TIA, has the same symptoms as a stroke, but they don’t last as long. TIA stands for transient ischemic (“is-KEM-ik”) attack.
A TIA happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked for a short period of time – usually a couple of minutes. If you’ve had a TIA, you are at greater risk for having a stroke.
Never ignore a TIA. Call 911 right away if you or someone else shows signs of stroke.