Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health

Stroke Prevention

F.A.S.T. Warning SignsA stroke (also called a brain attack) harms the brain the same way some heart attacks harm the heart. During a stroke, blood cannot get to part of the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that brings oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is clogged by a blood clot or some other particle. Because of this rupture or blockage, part of the brain doesn’t get the blood and oxygen it needs. Deprived of oxygen, nerve cells in the affected area of the brain die within minutes. This may cause symptoms, such as numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg or a sudden and severe headache. Some people have trouble walking, talking, or seeing. If you have any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately, just as you would if you were having a heart attack. If a stroke occurs, know what the symptoms of a stroke are. Be prepared to get medical help quickly if you have symptoms, even if they last for only a few seconds. The effects of stroke are serious. Fast treatment may result in better recovery.

Stroke Statistics

  • Someone in the US has a stroke about once every 40 seconds.

  • In 2018, stroke accounted for about 1 of every 19 deaths in the US.

  • On average in 2016, someone died of stroke every 3 minutes 33 seconds.

The source for the health statistics is the American Heart Association's 2021 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, which is compiled annually by the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other government sources.

Are You at Risk for a Stroke?

Risk factors are things that make you more likely to have a health problem. Some of them we cannot change, but others, we can. Look at the risk factors below and identify what may be putting you at increased risk. Then talk to your doctor about how you can lower your risk.

  • Risk factors that cannot be changed:
    • Age
    • Sex (gender) at birth
    • Race
    • Prior stroke
    • Family history
  • Risk factors that can be changed, treated, or controlled:
    • Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)
    • Carotid Artery Disease of other heart disease
    • Elevated cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)
    • Diabetes
    • High blood pressure (hypertension)
    • Sickle Cell Disease
    • Obesity and inactivity
    • Tobacco, drug, and alcohol use
  • Trouble with speaking and understanding. You may experience confusion. You may slur your words or have difficulty understanding speech.
  • Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg. You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg. This often happens just on one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Also, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
  • Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes. You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.
  • Headache. A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate you're having a stroke.
  • Trouble with walking. You may stumble or experience sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.


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