Signs of stroke: Prevention, risk factors and what to know

A stroke can happen to any one of any age, but some groups are more likely to suffer them than others. Although not all are preventable, acting fast is key.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a stroke occurs when a clot blocks blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

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Here are the signs of a stroke, plus risk factors:

Age, sex and ethnicity can increase stroke risk

Although anyone can have a stroke, age, sex and ethnicity are factors beyond one’s control that can increase a person’s risk of stroke.

One in five women in the United States will have a stroke in her lifetime, and nearly 60 percent of stroke deaths are in women. African-American women are more likely than any other group of women to have a stroke, and more likely to have severe strokes and strokes at younger ages.

African-American men are at the greatest risk of stroke among men in the United States and are more likely to have a stroke at a younger age, die of a stroke or have a stroke-related disability.

Hispanic people living in the United States tend to have strokes at younger ages. It is the fourth leading cause of death for Hispanics in the country.

Health problems that lead to stroke

A number of health problems that are risk factors for stroke disproportionately affect women and some ethnicities more than others. Among the health factors are high blood pressure, stress and anxiety and other mental health issues, sickle cell anemia, obesity, diabetes, smoking and sodium intake. According to the American Stroke Association, a prior stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack -- often called a mini stroke -- increases the risk of a stroke.

Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, according to the CDC. Many health risks for stroke can be mitigated by eating healthy, getting exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol use and quitting smoking.

Signs of stroke

If anyone has any of the following symptoms, they could be a sign of a stroke and 911 should be called immediately.

  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking and understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, leg or arms -- especially one side of the body
  • Trouble walking -- dizziness, loss of coordination or balance
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause


The following test, from the American Stroke Association, is a quick way to identify a stroke and get treatment fast. According to the CDC, the best stroke treatments are effective if a stroke is recognized within 3 hours of the first symptoms. The test, from CDC, is below:

  • 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 the speech slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you see any of these signs, call 911 right away.

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