An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes.
A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can reduce brain damage and other complication.
If you or someone you’re with may be having it, pay particular attention to the time the symptoms began. Some treatment options are most effective when given soon after a stroke begins.
Signs and symptoms of stroke include:
- Trouble speaking and understanding what others are saying. You may experience confusion, slur words or have difficulty understanding speech.
- Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg. You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in the face, arm or leg. This often affects just one side of the body.
When to see a doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to come and go or they disappear completely. Think “FAST” and do the following:
- Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise?
- Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
Many factors can increase the risk of stroke. Potentially treatable stroke risk factors include:
Lifestyle risk factors
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy or binge drinking
Medical risk factors
- High blood pressure
- Cigarette smoking or secondhand smoke exposure
- High cholesterol
Other factors associated with a higher risk of stroke include:
- Age — People age 55 or older have a higher risk of it than younger people.
- Race or ethnicity — African Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk of stroke than people of other races or ethnicities.
- Sex — Men have a higher risk of stroke than women. Women are usually older when they have it, and they’re more likely to die of strokes than men.
It can sometimes cause temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the brain lacks blood flow and which part is affected. Complications may include:
- Paralysis or loss of muscle movement. You may become paralyzed on one side of the body, or lose control of certain muscles, such as those on one side of the face or one arm.
- Difficulty talking or swallowing. It might affect control of the muscles in the mouth and throat, making it difficult for you to talk clearly, swallow or eat.
- Memory loss or thinking difficulties. Many people have had experience some memory loss. Others may have difficulty thinking, reasoning, making judgments, and understanding concepts.
Knowing your risk factors, following your healthcare provider’s recommendations, and adopting a healthy lifestyle are the best steps you can take to prevent a stroke.
- Controlling high blood pressure (hypertension). This is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your stroke risk.
- Lowering the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet. Eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats, may reduce buildup in the arteries.
- Managing diabetes. Diet, exercise, and losing weight can help you keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.