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What is Stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency and occurs when brain tissue is not getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs because the blood supply to part of your brain is affected. When this happens, brain cells begin to die in minutes. Early action when having a stroke is important as it can reduce brain damage, disabilities and other complications.

  • Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from stroke every year
  • Strokes are the 5th leading cause of deaths in the U.S.
  • On average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds
  • According to the National Stroke Association, up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented

Some individuals are at higher risk for stroke than others. Here’s what you can do to lessen your chances of getting a stroke.

To prevent stroke, start by getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. Additionally, it is important to stay on top of your stroke risk factors and manage them with your physician.

Know your risk factors

Did you know you are at higher risk of stroke if you have any of these conditions or factors?

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugar
  • Heart disease, especially atrial fibrillation (a-fib)
  • Sickle cell disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Age – stroke risk doubles for every decade after age 55
  • Family history of stroke in a parent, grandparent, sister or brother
  • Previous stroke or TIA
  • Sex – men have a higher risk at younger ages, while women have a higher risk over age 85
  • Race/ethnicity – African Americans have a higher risk of stroke than other races

Signs and symptoms of stroke

Check for any one of these signs which could mean a stroke:

Balance: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?

Eyes: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?

Face: Does the person's face look uneven?

Arm: Is one arm hanging down?

Speech: Is the person's speech slurred? Do they have trouble speaking or seem confused?

Time: Call 9-1-1 now!

Remember to BE FAST and call 911. First responders can begin providing vital care during transport to the hospital.


Read more about stroke

Rapid Treatment of Stroke
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The Brain Coffee Podcast: The Latest in Stroke Treatment and Recovery
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Every Second Matters When a Stroke Occurs
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BJWCH Employee Is Grateful for Care from BJC Family
Read Blaine's story

Stroke Survivor and Spouse Grateful for Barnes-Jewish Hospital Team
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Learn more about the Stroke Centers in your community

Fast, accurate treatment for stroke is critical for preserving brain function and preventing death. Learn more about our Certified Stroke Centers.



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St. Louis, Missouri 63108
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