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Stroke Risk Factors and Symptoms

About 700,000 Americans will have a stroke this year—that's one person every 45 seconds. You can reduce your chance of suffering a stroke by gaining a greater understanding of how this condition occurs and by identifying common risk factors.

Some of the factors that increase your risk of stroke are genetically determined. Others simply happen naturally or are due to lifestyle. The factors resulting from heredity or natural processes can't be changed, but those that are environmental can be modified with the help of our comprehensive approach to vascular care.

Uncontrollable risk factors include

  • Age
  • Male
  • African American heritage
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Family history of stroke

Controllable risk factors include

Treatable medical disorders, such as: diabetes, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, personal history of stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), and patent foramen ovale (or "PFO," an abnormal opening between the right and left sides of the heart)

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Drug abuse (especially cocaine)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Low estrogen in women

The risk of stroke is greatly reduced by lowering your blood pressure, smoking cessation, beginning or increasing exercise, controlling medical problems, maintaining optimal weight and eating a healthy diet.

To combat stroke—the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability for all Californians—St. Jude Medical Center established a comprehensive Stroke Program. Here our highly trained physicians, nurses, therapists and staff members offer exceptional stroke care, from diagnosis to intervention to rehabilitation, as well as preventative education and health screenings.

Stroke Symptoms

There is an easy-to-remember guide to help you spot the symptoms of a stroke; it’s called the FAST method:

  • Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the Face droop?
  • Ask the person to raise both Arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the Speech sound slurred or strange?
  • If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s Time to get immediate medical help.

If you suspect that you or someone you are with is experiencing a stroke, don't wait - call 911!

"Temporary strokes" (transient ischemic attacks or TIAs) can occur days, weeks or even months before a major permanent stroke. The symptoms occur rapidly and last a relatively short period of time, usually from a few minutes to an hour. If you experience a TIA, you may be up to nine times more likely to suffer a major stroke in the near future.