Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke. That means 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. Stroke is a leading cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 130,000 men and women annually.
Sometimes called a brain attack, stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked by a clot, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Stroke often causes physical disability for those 65 and older, reducing their mobility by more than half.
The risk factors for stroke.
You can’t control some risk factors for stroke, such as age, gender, ethnicity, and heredity. And some medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol, obesity, atrial fibrillation (AFib), circulation problems, and previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA is a warning sign of future stroke) also put you at risk. But there are things you can control or change to reduce your risk of stroke. They include the following:
- Behaviors such as smoking or drinking too much alcohol
- Poor diet, consisting of fast foods or processed foods containing trans fats or saturated fats, or foods with too much salt or sugar
- Excess weight or obesity
- Chronic conditions such as diabetes
- Inactivity, lack of exercise, or other controllable factors
If you haven’t had a checkup recently, do so. And if you are at risk for stroke, talk with a healthcare provider to learn what you can do about it.
Assess your risk of stroke.
Learn your risk.
Common warning signs/symptoms of stroke.
When someone has a stroke, time is of the essence. According to the National Stroke Association, F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. Recognition of stroke and calling 911 will determine how quickly someone receives help and treatment—and will likely lead to a better recovery. The following F.A.S.T information will help you recognize and respond to the signs of stroke:
CDC public health efforts.
CDC supports the efforts of State Public Health Actions to Prevent and Control Chronic Diseases. It’s a nationwide program to reduce the risk factors associated with childhood and adult obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Through a federal grant, all 50 states and the District of Columbia receive funds to help prevent these chronic diseases—and to make healthy living easier for all Americans. Learn more .
The WISEWOMAN program is administered through CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP). It provides low-income, underinsured, or uninsured women with chronic-disease risk-factor screening, lifestyle programs, and referral services in an effort to prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke. The priority age group is women ages 40 to 64. Learn more .
Million Hearts is another nationwide initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It provides Americans with information about hypertension and its link to heart disease and stroke, as well as the prevention or management of the condition, the costs and consequences, and valuable data and reports. Learn more .
- Identify— the risk factors for stroke and identify your personal risk.
- Reduce—work to reduce your stroke risk through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication.
- Recognize/respond—to the signs and symptoms of a stroke by memorizing F.A.S.T. Respond to the first sign of stroke and help save a life.
Stroke-smart living habits.
- Healthy diet—Learn about DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension), which offers the latest government guidelines for healthy eating, here .
- Healthy weight—Determine the best weight for your body type and height using the CDC’s Adult Body Mass Index Calculator.
- Physical activity—It is recommended that you spend a minimum of 30 minutes per day walking, stretching, bicycling, or doing aerobic exercise.
- No smoking—Quit now. Tobacco harms every bodily organ, especially the heart and blood vessels.
- Limit alcohol use—Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
How to manage stress.
According to the American Heart Association, worry, anxiety, and negative emotions impact the body’s stress response. This can become a problem when it constantly signals danger about issues that aren’t necessarily a threat, to the point of overwhelming our health, well-being, or clear thinking—even our cardiovascular systems.
Learn AHA’s stress-management techniques here .