How often does stroke occur?

  • About 700,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. That means on average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds.
  • About every three minutes someone dies of stroke.
  • One of every 15 deaths in the U.S. is a stroke death. Stroke is the third leading cause of death after Heart Disease and Cancer.

Are all strokes the same?

Strokes caused by a clot in the brain or a clot sent to the brain are called "ischemic" (iss-keem-ick) strokes. The other type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke which is the result of bleeding in the brain. Ischemic strokes happen four (4) times as often as hemorrhagic strokes. Both types of stroke can cause brain cell death. Brain cell death may cause a person to lose control of certain functions, such as talking, walking, using their hands, sight and memory. This is why a stroke is considered an emergency and should be treated as quickly as possible.

What is a TIA or "mini stroke?"

TIA stands for "Transient Ischemic Attack." The word "ischemic" means a clot in the brain causing brain cell death. "Transient" means it comes and goes. So a TIA is an "almost" stroke or a possible warning of an upcoming stroke. The signs of TIA don't last more than an hour. It is important to treat any stroke signs as an emergency and call 9-1-1. Physicians can use tests such as CT scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to tell the difference between a stroke and TIA. 

What are the warning signs of stroke?

Not everyone gets all of the following warning signs of stroke. When a patient is experiencing TIA, these signs can go away and return. Patients should not "wait and see" as stroke is an emergency. Treatments are most effective if given within one hour of when the attack begins. If you have any of these SUDDEN symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away. Ambulance personnel are an extension of the emergency department and can start life-saving care on the way to the hospital.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance and coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
  • Sudden blurred or double vision, drowsiness and nausea or vomiting.

For more information on warning signs, click here.

Who is at risk for stroke? Can stroke be prevented?

Stroke risk is higher for people who have a family or personal history of stroke.

  • African Americans are at greater risk of stroke because they tend to have high blood pressure which is a major stroke risk factor.
  • The chance of having a stroke more than doubles for each decade of life after the age of 55.
  • Women who smoke or who have high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes are at greater risk of having a stroke. Hormonal changes with pregnancy, childbirth and menopause are also linked to an increased risk of stroke.

Gender, family history and ethnicity are risk factors you cannot change. You can change or treat most other risk factors to lower your risk.

Here are some of the best ways to prevent stroke:

  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated (animal) fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Don't overeat and keep your weight under control. Click here for more information for a diet for hypertension.
  • Get regular exercise (30 minutes a day, most days of the week, or more).
  • Find ways to manage stress in your life.
  • If you have high blood pressure, take your blood pressure medicine as prescribed by your health care provider.
  • If your cholesterol level is too high, talk to your health care provider about ways to lower it.
  • If you smoke, stop smoking. If it is hard to quit on your own, there are products like nicotine patches, support groups and programs to help you stop smoking.  Click the following links for more information:
  • If you have heart disease or diabetes, take extra care of your health. See your health care provider and take your medicine as prescribed.
  • Get help if you have a TIA ("mini-stroke"). Talk to your health care provider to see if you need medicine or surgery.
  • Aspirin therapy may be useful, but check with your health care provider before starting an aspirin regimen.

What are the effects of stroke?

The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions. If a stroke occurs and blood flow can't reach the part of the brain that controls a particular body function that part of the body won't work as it should. For example, if the stroke occurs toward the back of the brain, it's likely that some disability involving vision will result. The effects of a stroke depend primarily on the location of the stroke and the extent of brain tissue affected. Each side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body.

Right Brain
If the stroke occurs in the brain's right side, the left side of the body will be affected, which could produce any or all of the following:

  • Paralysis or weakness on the left side of the body
  • Vision problems
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Memory loss

Left Brain
If the stroke occurs in the left side of the brain, the right side of the body will be affected, producing some or all of the following:

  • Paralysis or weakness on the right side of the body
  • Speech/language problems
  • Slow, cautious behavioral style
  • Memory loss
  • Vision problems
  • Swallowing problems

What does the future look like after a stroke?

Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States; however reducing your risk can help prevent stroke. 

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Framingham Heart Study (FHS):

  • 14 of every 100 stroke patients who survive a first stroke or TIA will have another one within one year.
  • The length of time to recover from a stroke depends on how big a stroke it is. From 50–70% of stroke survivors can care for themselves (be functionally independent), but 15–30% of stroke survivors are permanently disabled. 20% will still be in a nursing home three months after the stroke. This is why risk reduction and prevention are so very important.