Facts, Causes and Risks of Stroke

Facts, Causes, Risks and Prevention of Stroke

Because stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, you probably have a friend or family member who has suffered from it. Due to a family history or other risk factors, even a woman who has always thought of herself as perfectly healthy can find herself suddenly experiencing the symptoms of stroke.

Take a look at the statistics:

  • About 795,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke kills more than 137,000 people a year. That’s about 1 of every 18 deaths.
  • On average, someone dies of stroke every four minutes.
  • About 40 percent of stroke deaths occur in males, and 60 percent in females.
  • Among Mexican Americans age 20 and older, 2 percent of men and 2.7 percent of women have had a stroke.

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when either a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot or the vessel bursts. When either of these occur, the brain does not receive the oxygen-rich blood it needs and brain cells begin to die, and quickly. That’s why it’s so important to know the signs and symptoms of stroke – you need to be able to take action the moment you suspect something is wrong.

The kind of stroke caused by a clot is called an ischemic stroke, and is by far the most common type, accounting for 87 percent of all cases. A hemorrhagic stroke is the kind where a weakened blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain, compressing the surrounding brain tissue. This kind accounts for about 13 percent of stroke cases. The third kind of stroke, known as mini stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), is caused by a temporary clot. This type should more rightly be called a warning stroke because while they may last only a minute or two, they’re a major wake-up call to start making some lifestyle changes and consult your doctor ASAP.

Knowing your risks

While the number and frequency of stroke cases in the U.S. is startling, the answer isn’t to live in fear that you’ll be next. Instead, learn the major risk factors and take a good look in the mirror. While some risk factors are outside your control – like race, age and gender – there are many you do have the power to control, such as diet, cigarette smoking, cholesterol and blood pressure. Take a look at the full list of risk factors for stroke and consult your doctor about the ones that apply to you.