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Strokes are preventable and treatable.

Although stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, you can lower your chances of having a stroke and serious disability.

Elderly couple dancing as part of stroke prevention


What is a stroke?

Also called a brain attack, a stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is blocked — called an ischemic stroke — or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts — called a hemorrhagic stroke. In both cases, the blood supply to the brain is blocked, depriving the brain of oxygen and causing damage to brain cells.

Warning signs

These warning signs mean you should call 9-1-1.

Every second counts when a stroke is happening. The more quickly you respond and get help, the better the chances of recovery. It helps to remember these FAST signs:

  • Face drooping. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face drop, or is it numb?
  • Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech difficulty. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly, or is speech slurred or hard to understand?
  • Time to call 9-1-1. If any of these symptoms occur — even if they go away — call 9-1-1 immediately.

Risk factors

Risk factors for stroke.

You can’t control some risk factors for stroke. But some medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol, obesity, atrial fibrillation, circulation problems, and previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA is a warning sign of future stroke) put you at risk. These things can also put you at risk for stroke:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating fast foods or processed foods containing trans fats or saturated fats, foods with too much salt or sugar, and foods with not enough potassium
  • Weighing more than you should — being overweight or obese
  • Lack of exercise or remaining inactive
  • Chronic conditions such as diabetes

If you haven’t had a checkup recently, get one. And if you are at risk for stroke, talk with a health care provider to learn what you can do about it.


Stroke-smart living habits.