What Increases Your Risk
A risk factor is anything that makes you more likely to have a particular health problem. Risk factors for stroke that you can treat or change include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
- Atrial fibrillation.
- High cholesterol.
- Heavy use of alcohol.
- Being overweight.
- Physical inactivity.
Risk factors you cannot change include:
- Age. The risk of stroke increases with age.
- Race. African Americans, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives have a higher risk than those of other races.
- Gender. Women have a higher risk of having a stroke in their lifetime compared to men. In people ages 55 to 75, about 2 out of 10 women will have a stroke and 1 or 2 out of 10 men will have a stroke.
- Family history. The risk for stroke is greater if a parent, brother, or sister has had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
- History of stroke or TIA.
When To Call a Doctor
Callor other emergency services now if you have signs of a stroke:
- Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
- Sudden vision changes.
- Sudden trouble speaking.
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
- Sudden problems with walking or balance.
- A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
Signs of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) are similar to signs of a stroke. But TIA symptoms usually disappear after 10 to 20 minutes, although they may last longer. There is no way to tell whether the symptoms are caused by a stroke or by TIA, so emergency medical care is needed for both conditions.
Call your doctor right away if you:
- Have had recent symptoms of a TIA or stroke, even if the symptoms have disappeared.
- Are taking aspirin or other medicines that prevent blood clotting and you notice any signs of bleeding.
- Have a choking episode from food going down your windpipe.
- Have signs of a blood clot in a deep blood vessel, which include redness, warmth, and pain in a specific area of your arm or leg.
Call your doctor for an appointment if you:
- Think you have had a TIA in the past and have not talked with your doctor about it.
- Have a pressure sore.
- Notice that your affected arm or leg is becoming increasingly stiff or you are not able to straighten it (spasticity).
- Notice signs of a urinary tract infection. Signs may include fever, pain with urination, blood in urine, and low back (flank) pain.
- Are having trouble keeping your balance.
Who to see
Doctors who can diagnose and treat stroke include:
If you need surgery or have other health problems, other specialists may be consulted, such as a:
Some hospitals have a stroke team made up of many different health professionals, such as a neurologist, a neuroradiologist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a rehabilitation doctor (physiatrist), a nurse, and a social worker.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.