Stroke is the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Each year, fifteen million people suffer from strokes globally, and one-third of them die as a result. Another third develop permanent disabilities. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

While the incidence of stroke is decreasing in industrialized countries, it is increasing in the developing world. In a worrisome trend, stroke mortality is expected to triple in the next twenty years in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East.

Stroke can strike anyone at any age, although it is much more common in people over the age of 60. It is important for everyone, especially those in the 45-65 age range, to be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with stroke.

What is a Stroke?

Simply put, a stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Deprived of oxygen, brain cells die rapidly. Someone who suffers a stroke may lose memories or abilities that are located in the affected parts of the brain.

There are two types of stroke:

Hemorrhagic – occurs when a blood vessel leaks or a cerebral aneurysm (a ballooned artery) bursts, and blood flows into or around the brain, causing pressure.

Intracerebral hemorrhage is when the damaged vessel leaks blood directly into the brain tissue, killing brain cells.

In some cases, hemorrhage occurs due to a genetic malformation of the arteries and veins in the central nervous system (arteriovenous malformations). If this condition is properly diagnosed, it can be treated to prevent a stroke.

Subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when there is bleeding in the space between the brain and the surrounding tissues. This is usually caused by a burst aneurysm but can also occur as a result of head injury or the use of blood-thinning medications.

Ischemic – caused by a blockage or blood clot in a blood vessel, cutting off the blood supply to the brain. This is the most common type of stroke.

A blood clot can form and arterial plaque can rupture anywhere in the circulatory system. If such a mass travels to the brain and reaches a blood vessel too small for it to pass through, it can become stuck there. This is called an embolic stroke.

A thrombotic stroke refers to a situation where a blood clot forms inside one of the arteries that supply blood to the brain, causing a blockage.

A transient ischemic attack is commonly known as a “mini-stroke.” It is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain and does not cause long-term damage. The symptoms of a stroke may manifest, but they will pass within a few minutes.

It is extremely important to see a healthcare provider if you think you have experienced a transient ischemic attack – it is often a precursor to a full-blown ischemic stroke.

Contributing Factors to Stroke Risk

Stroke can occur without warning in anyone, including children. The following are the major risk factors for stroke:

Alcohol and substance abuse, such as cocaine and methamphetamine

Atherosclerosis or other cardiovascular diseases

Chronic high cholesterol




Long-term use of certain medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen


Poor diet

Sedentary lifestyle

Sickle cell disease


Stress and depression

Age and gender – the risk of stroke increases with age.

In individuals under the age of 60, men are more likely than women to suffer a stroke, but women are more likely to die as a result.

Race/ethnicity – in North America, Africans and Native Americans are more susceptible to stroke than other ethnic groups.

12 Symptoms of Stroke

The symptoms of a stroke depend on the part of the brain affected by the interrupted blood supply. Knowing the signs of a stroke can make the difference between getting medical help quickly enough to prevent serious damage and a life of disability.

Facial pain on one side

Sudden and unexplained pain on one side of the face, arm, leg, or chest is atypical but not uncommon. Women are more likely to experience atypical stroke symptoms, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Blurred vision

Sudden difficulty seeing clearly, such as blurred or double vision, inability to focus the eye(s), or other changes in vision (in one or both eyes) may indicate a stroke.

Difficulty breathing or swallowing

Women may exhibit different stroke symptoms than men. Having difficulty breathing or swallowing are two of these symptoms.

And other signs of stroke are more common in women: fainting, confusion, hallucinations, nausea or vomiting, sudden pain, seizures, hiccups.


Shaking in the hands is a relatively uncommon but confirmed symptom of a stroke – the obstruction of blood supply to the brain.

Loss of balance

Sudden dizziness, lack of coordination, or loss of balance are common stroke symptoms and should be taken seriously.

Difficulty walking

Sudden numbness or tingling anywhere in the body (“pins and needles”) or instability and trouble with regular walking may be signs of a stroke.

Facial paralysis

This is probably the most well-known symptom of a stroke. Sudden numbness/weakness/paralysis of part of the face, arm, or leg can tell you that a stroke is occurring.

“Try to lift both arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Similarly, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile,” warns the Mayo Clinic.


A normal headache feels like a dull pressure in the head and occurs without other stroke symptoms. A migraine is a sharp, painful headache that is usually preceded by other symptoms. A sudden, sharp, thunderclap-like headache – especially in younger individuals – may be a sign of a stroke.

Women are more likely to have headaches than men, especially those who regularly experience migraines.


If you are about to do something and suddenly become confused, disoriented, or unable to understand and think clearly, it may be a sign of a stroke.


Dizziness or imbalance is not necessarily a sign of a stroke; dizziness and imbalance accompanied by vertigo are often symptoms of a stroke.

Vertigo is the sensation of movement or spinning of the room without actual movement, or the feeling that objects in the surrounding environment are moving when they are stationary.

Vertigo itself is often a simple matter of inner ear imbalance and can be cured with Epley maneuver or other physical adjustments. Triumvirate is a cause for concern for a stroke.

When it comes to stroke stem, the prognosis is very good: Dramatic recovery from a stroke is possible. Since strokes usually do not affect linguistic ability, the patient is able to participate more in rehabilitation therapy. Most deficits are related to motor functions, not cognition. Double vision and vertigo often resolve after a few weeks of recovery in mild to moderate strokes that affect the brain,” writes the American Stroke Association.

  1. Speech problems

    • The area of the brain that is most responsible for speech is often affected by a stroke. Inability to speak, slurred speech, or problems with understanding communication are common when experiencing a stroke.

  2. Fatigue

  • Women are more likely than men to feel fatigue, weakness, confusion, and sudden changes in mental state during a stroke.

Stroke Prevention

Up to 80% of stroke cases can be prevented. To drastically reduce the risk of stroke, consider these lifestyle options:

Maintain easily manageable blood pressure. Keep blood pressure below 120/80.

Maintain a healthy weight. A body mass index of 25 or less is desirable. The National Institutes of Health offers an online BMI calculator.

Engage in regular physical exercise, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least 5 days a week.

Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.

Keep blood sugar levels in the moderate range. If you have diabetes, stay on top of it. The risk of stroke is significantly higher for individuals with diabetes.

Quit smoking.

F.A.S.T. for Stroke

Getting immediate medical care (within an hour) when experiencing the symptoms of a stroke mentioned above is imperative to limit or prevent permanent damage or death.

There are medications that rapidly dissolve blood clots to remove the obstruction and restore blood flow to the brain. Receiving treatment within 3 hours of symptom onset correlates with a 30% greater chance of avoiding major injuries.

In medical circles, the mnemonic acronym “FAST” has been used to spread awareness of warning signs and what to do if you suspect someone is having a stroke. If there is even a possibility of an ongoing stroke, call for an ambulance immediately.

Here’s what you need to remember:

F (Face): Ask the person to smile. Look for signs of drooping on one side of the face.

A (Arms): Ask the person to raise both arms. Look for one arm that is lower than the other.

S (Speech): Ask the person to repeat a phrase without stumbling. For example, you could say, “Early to bed, early to rise.”

T (Time): Don’t waste time. Call local emergency services immediately if you or someone you know exhibits stroke symptoms.