Vanderbilt Clinical Neurosciences
Stroke Warning Signs and Risk Factors
The symptoms of a stroke depend on the part of the brain affected and the size of the damage. Stroke symptoms are sudden and typically painless.
Any one of these symptoms is a medical emergency:
- Weakness, numbness or tingling in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Having a hard time speaking or understanding
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Severe headache, dizziness, confusion or personality changes
- Having a hard time swallowing
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Passing out
- Ignoring or forgetting the weak or affected side of the body.
You are more likely to have a stroke if you have:
- Chronic high blood pressure (greater than 140/90 mmHg taken after 5 minutes of sitting down)
- Heart disease (such as irregular heart rhythm right-to-left shunt or history of heart attacks)
- Diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar)
- High cholesterol level
- Hardening of the arteries due to cholesterol deposits
- A tobacco habit (particularly cigarette smoking)
- Family or personal history of stroke
- Too much extra weight (obesity)
- A sedentary lifestyle, which means you exercise less than 3 hours a week
- Advanced age
- Have had a TIA or prior stroke
- A habit of drinking too much alcohol
- Lack of certain vitamins
- Blood disorders (such as Sickle Cell disease or a disease with a tendency to form clots)
- Illegal drug use
You can reduce the risk of a stroke by making these changes:
- If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), you must control it with medicine. A low-salt diet is also important.
- If you smoke, quit. Ask your health care provider for options.
- Exercise daily for 30 minutes or more. Walking is usually the safest exercise, unless you have problems with balance that may cause you to fall. Do not skip days.
- If you have diabetes, monitor and control the blood sugar level with diet and medicine.
- Eat foods low in fat, salt and cholesterol to reduce the risk of clogging your blood vessels. Lower your cholesterol levels with diet, medicine or exercise.
- If you're overweight, talk to your health care provider about weight control options.
- Don't drink more than one drink of alcohol a day, especially if you have leg weakness or balance problems.
- Follow your doctor's orders for rehab after a stroke.
- Recreation is important to manage stress. Learn to relax and avoid stress in your life.
- Get regular medical checkups. Follow your doctor's advice for good health habits.
1301 Medical Center Drive
3930 The Vanderbilt Clinic
Nashville, TN 37232
If you are having symptoms of a stroke, or see someone else having them, don’t wait. Get to the nearest emergency room right away.