What Causes Stroke?

A stroke takes place when the brain's blood supply is suddenly interrupted. This can be caused by a blocked or narrowed artery (ischemic stroke) or by sudden bleeding from the artery (hemorrhagic stroke). In some cases, blood flow to the brain is disrupted (transient ischemic attack, also known as TIA). When the blood supply is interrupted, part of the brain doesn't get the blood it needs and it starts to die. When brain cells die, new ones do not replace them. With a brain attack, whether a mild stroke or severe, the goal is to lessen the potentially weakening effects, prevent further damage to the brain and reduce complications. Most strokes are preventable and many can be treated. But you must seek immediate medical care.

Are you at risk for a stroke?

Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the number-one cause of adult disability. Anyone can have a stroke, but these are among the most common risk factors:

Modifiable risk factors

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart or carotid artery disease
  • Uncontrolled Diabetes
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity and/or physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use or drug abuse
  • Unhealthy diet

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Family history
  • Age 55 or older
  • Ethnicity

Can You Recognize a Stroke?

The most common warning signs are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes