stroke-monthMay is American Stroke Month. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association encourages Americans to become more educated about stroke, symptoms, prevention and treatment. Surprisingly, many don’t think of stroke as a major health concern even though it is the Nation’s No. 4 cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability.

Strokes fall into one of three categories: Ischemic (clots), Hemorrhagic (bleeds) or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).

Ischemic stroke accounts for 87% of all stroke cases. It occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel – aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation (AVM) – ruptures. The most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is a largely treatable condition: high blood pressure. TIAs are often referred to as “mini strokes,” but don’t let the name undermine their seriousness. TIAs occur when a blood vessel is obstructed by a temporary clot.

According to the American Stroke Association, there are a variety of stroke risk factors. Some of these risk factors are within our control while others cannot be changed.

Risk factors for stroke that can’t be changed include:

  • age
  • family history/heredity
  • race
  • gender
  • history of stroke, TIA or heart attack

Risk factors for stroke that can be treated or controlled include:

  • high blood pressure or hypertension
  • cigarette smoking
  • diabetes
  • carotid or other artery disease
  • peripheral artery disease
  • atrial fibrillation
  • heart diseases
  • sickle cell disease
  • high blood cholesterol
  • poor diet
  • physical inactivity and/or obesity

To learn more about these risk factors as well as other less commonly reported factors, click here.

In additional to learning about stroke risk factors, being aware of warning signs is essential for immediate medical attention which may minimize long-term effects and prevent death. First and foremost, if you or a loved one think you are having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Test yourself with the stroke warning signs quiz.

The American Stroke Association encourages you to think “F.A.S.T.” when it comes to stroke:

F: Face Drooping
A: Arm Weakness
S: Speech Difficulty
T: Time to call 9-1-1