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Stroke (cont.)

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.
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • 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.

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eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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