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Stroke Information

Introduction
What is a Stroke?
What are Warning Signs of a Stroke?
What are Risk Factors for a Stroke?
What Are the Treatable Risk Factors?

Do You Know Your Stroke Risk?
What is the Prognosis?
What Research is Being Done?
Organizations

Links

Introduction

If you're like most Americans, you plan for your future. When you take a job, you examine its benefit plan. When you buy a home, you consider its location and condition so that your investment is safe. Today, more and more Americans are protecting their most important asset--their health. Are you?

Stroke ranks as the third leading killer in the United States. A stroke can be devastating to individuals and their families, robbing them of their independence. It is the most common cause of adult disability. Each year more than 700,000 Americans have a stroke, with about 160,000 dying from stroke-related causes. Officials at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) are committed to reducing that burden through biomedical research.

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What is a Stroke?

A stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails. Brain cells can die from decreased blood flow and the resulting lack of oxygen. There are two broad categories of stroke: those caused by a blockage of blood flow and those caused by bleeding. While not usually fatal, a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or neck, called an ischemic stroke, is the most frequent cause of stroke and is responsible for about 80 percent of strokes. These blockages stem from three conditions: the formation of a clot within a blood vessel of the brain or neck, called thrombosis; the movement of a clot from another part of the body such as the heart to the neck or brain, called embolism; or a severe narrowing of an artery in or leading to the brain, called stenosis. Bleeding into the brain or the spaces surrounding the brain causes the second type of stroke, called hemorrhagic stroke.

Two key steps you can take will lower your risk of death or disability from stroke: know stroke's warning signs and control stroke's risk factors. Scientific research conducted by the NINDS has identified warning signs and a large number of risk factors.

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What are Warning Signs of a Stroke?

Warning signs are clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. If you observe one or more of these signs of a stroke or "brain attack," don't wait, call a doctor or 911 right away!

Other danger signs that may occur include double vision, drowsiness, and nausea or vomiting. Sometimes the warning signs may last only a few moments and then disappear. These brief episodes, known as transient ischemic attacks or TIAs, are sometimes called "mini-strokes." Although brief, they identify an underlying serious condition that isn't going away without medical help. Unfortunately, since they clear up, many people ignore them. Don't. Heeding them can save your life.

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What are Risk Factors for a Stroke?

A risk factor is a condition or behavior that occurs more frequently in those who have, or are at greater risk of getting, a disease than in those who don't. Having a risk factor for stroke doesn't mean you'll have a stroke. On the other hand, not having a risk factor doesn't mean you'll avoid a stroke. But your risk of stroke grows as the number and severity of risk factors increases.

Stroke occurs in all age groups, in both sexes, and in all races in every country. It can even occur before birth, when the fetus is still in the womb. In African-Americans, stroke is more common and more deadly--even in young and middle-aged adults--than for any ethnic or other racial group in the United States. Scientists have found more and more severe risk factors in some minority groups and continue to look for patterns of stroke in these groups.

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What Are the Treatable Risk Factors?

Some of the most important treatable risk factors for stroke are:

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Do You Know Your Stroke Risk?

Some of the most important risk factors for stroke can be determined during a physical exam at your doctor's office. If you are over 55 years old, a worksheet in a pamphlet available from the NINDS can help you estimate your risk of stroke and show the benefit of risk-factor control.

The worksheet was developed from NINDS-supported work in the well-known Framingham Study. Working with your doctor, you can develop a strategy to lower your risk to average or even below average for your age.

Many risk factors for stroke can be managed, some very successfully. Although risk is never zero at any age, by starting early and controlling your risk factors you can lower your risk of death or disability from stroke. With good control, the risk of stroke in most age groups can be kept below that for accidental injury or death.

Americans have shown that stroke is preventable and treatable. In recent years, a better understanding of the causes of stroke has helped Americans make lifestyle changes that have cut the stroke death rate nearly in half.

Scientists at the NINDS predict that, with continued attention to reducing the risks of stroke and by using currently available therapies and developing new ones, Americans should be able to prevent 80 percent of all strokes.

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What is the prognosis?

Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire body. A common disability that results from stroke is complete paralysis on one side of the body, called hemiplegia. A related disability that is not as debilitating as paralysis is one-sided weakness or hemiparesis. Stroke may cause problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory. Stroke survivors often have problems understanding or forming speech. A stroke can lead to emotional problems. Stroke patients may have difficulty controlling their emotions or may express inappropriate emotions. Many stroke patients experience depression. Stroke survivors may also have numbness or strange sensations. The pain is often worse in the hands and feet and is made worse by movement and temperature changes, especially cold temperatures.

Recurrent stroke is frequent; about 25 percent of people who recover from their first stroke will have another stroke within 5 years.

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What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts stroke research and clinical trials at its laboratories and clinics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and through grants to major medical institutions across the country. Currently, NINDS researchers are studying the mechanisms of stroke risk factors and the process of brain damage that results from stroke. Basic research has also focused on the genetics of stroke and stroke risk factors. Scientists are working to develop new and better ways to help the brain repair itself to restore important functions.  New advances in imaging and rehabilitation have shown that the brain can compensate for function lost as a result of stroke.

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Organizations

American Stroke Association: A Division of American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX   75231-4596
strokeassociation@heart.org
http://www.strokeassociation.org
Tel: 1-888-4STROKE (478-7653)
Fax: 214-706-5231
 
Brain Aneurysm Foundation
12 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA   02116
office@bafound.org
http://www.bafound.org
Tel: 617-723-3870

 
National Stroke Association
9707 East Easter Lane
Englewood, CO   80112-3747
info@stroke.org
http://www.stroke.org
Tel: 303-649-9299 800-STROKES (787-6537)
Fax: 303-649-1328
 
Stroke Clubs International
805 12th Street
Galveston, TX   77550
strokeclubs@earthlink.net
Tel: 409-762-1022

 
National Aphasia Association
7 Dey Street
Suite 600
New York, NY   10007
naa@aphasia.org
http://www.aphasia.org
Tel: 212-267-2814 800-922-4NAA (4622)
Fax: 212-267-2812
Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Assocn. (CHASA)
4101 West Green Oaks Blvd., Ste. 305
PMB 149
Arlington, TX   76016
info437@chasa.org
http://www.chasa.org
Tel: 817-492-4325
 
Hazel K. Goddess Fund for Stroke Research in Women
785 Park Avenue
New York, NY   10021-3552
info@thegoddessfund.org
http://www.thegoddessfund.org
Tel: 212-734-8067
Fax: 212-288-2160
 
American Health Assistance Foundation
22512 Gateway Center Drive
Clarksburg, MD   20871
info@ahaf.org
http://www.ahaf.org
Tel: 301-948-3244 800-437-AHAF (2423)
Fax: 301-258-9454

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Links

Illustrated guide to a Stroke

Neurological Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

Stroke Information Directory

Stroke Rehabilitation Information

Order Free Stroke Publications from NINDS

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Where to find this information: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/stroke.htm

NIH Publication No. 02-3440b

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

 

Page last reviewed: 12/30/2015

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