What is Stroke?


Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.

Stroke Risk Factors you CAN control:

  • High Blood Pressure – The #1 risk factor for Stroke is high blood pressure. Another name for this is hypertension. When you control your blood pressure, you can greatly reduce your risk of Stroke. Talk to your doctor to learn what your blood pressure should be. Starting at age 55, you should get your blood pressure checked twice a year, unless your doctor advises more frequent checks
  • Smoking – Smoking is a major risk for Stroke because it causes your blood to clot easier, increases the build-up of plaque in your arteries, and every time you smoke, your arteries narrow and your blood pressure increases as a result of the nicotine
  • High Cholesterol – An unhealthy cholesterol balance can lead to fat deposits in the arteries. These deposits are called plaque. Plaque narrows the arteries and can lead to Stroke. You should have your first cholesterol check at age 20. After that, follow your doctor’s guidelines for regular cholesterol testing. The best time for a cholesterol check is after you have not eaten for several hours. You should learn what your cholesterol numbers are
  • Obesity – Excess weight increases your risk of Stroke. People who have a Stroke or heart disease often have excess body fat around their lower belly, or abdomen. This is sometimes called an ‘apple shape’. Obesity can also bring other risk factors with it, such as high blood pressure, higher bad cholesterol, and diabetes. Weight control and exercise improve your circulation and help reduce other risk factors
  • Alcohol, Caffeine, Drug use – Heavy alcohol use increases risk for Stroke. Drinking three or more cups of coffee a day may increase the risk of Stroke in older men with high blood pressure. Use of street drugs, especially cocaine and amphetamines, is a major Stroke risk. Using steroids for body building increases risk of Stroke
  • Stress – Studies show a link between mental stress and the narrowing of the carotid arteries. Learning and practicing ways to reduce stress may help reduce your Stroke risk
  • Poor Nutrition – A diet high in fat, sugar, and salt puts you at risk for Stroke. Studies show that eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day will reduce your risk of Stroke by 30%

Stroke Signs and Symptoms:

Four Letters:  F-A-S-T 

F:  Face Drooping
A: Arm Weakness
S: Speech Difficulty
T: Time to call 911

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and say, "I think this is a stroke" to help get the person to the hospital immediately. Time is important! Don't delay, and also note the time when the first symptoms appeared. Emergency responders will want to know.


American Stroke Association:

Wisconsin Stroke and Chronic Disease Prevention Program: