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Stroke warning signs and risk factors

Know the facts. You can spot a stroke quickly and increase your chances to avoid one.


The main sings of a stroke can be summed up in the F.A.S.T. acronym:

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?
SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services immediately.

Remember, a stroke is usually sudden. Look for these signs:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding 
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes 
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of having a stroke. If you any of the following risk factors, work with your doctor to address them:

Controllable risk factors:
  • High blood pressure -- the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor for stroke
  • High cholesterol -- can be lowered though diet or medication
  • Diabetes -- can be treated
  • Smoking  -- smoking doubles the risk for stroke
  • Alcohol use -- only drink 1 glass per day of beer or wine
  • Obesity -- watch what and how much you eat
  • Atrial fibrillation -- can be treated

Uncontrollable risk factors:
  • Age -- The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
  • Gender -- Strokes are more common in men.
  • Race -- African Americans and Hispanics are higher at risk.
  • Family history -- Your stroke risk is greater if a parent, grandparent, sister, or brother has had a stroke.
  • Previous stroke or TIA -- Your stroke risk goes up if already had one or mini-stroke (TIA). 

Reducing your risk though diet:
  • A study published in the journal Stroke found that drinking one cup of coffee per day can decrease stroke risk by up to 20%.
  • A study showed that people who eat a "Mediterranean" diet rich in nuts or extra virgin olive oil  had 30% fewer heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from cardiovascular disease.
  • Drinking can make you less likely to have a stroke. Studies have shown that if you have one drink of wine per day, your risk may be lower. But once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.
  • Research has found that eating chocolate -- up to two standard candy bars a day -- are 11% less likely than those who eat little to no chocolate to have heart attacks and strokes, and 25% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.