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Student Health Information Page compiled by: Lawrence Benjamin

What is a Stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood flow to all or part of your brain is cut off or interrupted. This can damage your brain and cause you to have difficulty speaking, moving your body or remembering things. This damage can last for a short time or for a long time. Strokes can also cause death, although most people survive after a stroke.

How is a stroke different from a heart attack?

With a stroke, blood flow is cut off to the brain - that’s why some people call a stroke a “brain attack”. With a heart attack, blood flow is cut off to the heart. While heart attacks and strokes are different, they have many of the same causes.

How Common are Strokes?

Every year, 800,000 people have a stroke in the US - in fact, more people have strokes than heart attacks. About 140,000 people die from strokes each year which makes stroke the 5th leading cause of death. Stroke is also the leading cause of adult disability. There are about 7 million people living in the US today who have had a stroke.

Most strokes happen to people over age 65 although strokes can happen to anyone at any age. More women die from strokes than men. Strokes are also more common in certain groups of people, especially African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans.

How can I tell if I am having a stroke?

Call 911 immediately if you have sudden:
  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

What causes stroke and how can I prevent it?

Most strokes are caused by our lifestyle choices that can make it harder for blood to flow easily from our heart to our brain. The good news is that most strokes can be prevented. The best ways for you to prevent stroke will also help you prevent a heart attack:
  • Don’t smoke: smokers are twice as likely to have a stroke
  • Drink alcohol moderately: heavy drinking increases your chances of having a stroke
  • Watch what you eat: a healthy diet and a healthy weight reduces your chances of having a stroke
  • Get regular exercise: exercise reduces the likelihood of having a stroke
  • Control your blood pressure: high blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke
  • Get regular physical check-ups

What is the treatment for a stroke?

Your doctor will select a treatment that is best for the type of stroke you have had and other medical conditions you may have. Your treatment may include:
  • Medicine: your doctor may prescribe medicine that thins your blood and reduces the chances of future blockages, or medicine that lowers your blood pressure
  • Surgery: your doctor may recommend surgery to improve the blood flow to your brain
  • Rehabilitation: your doctor may suggest a therapist who will help you with any physical or emotional difficulties
  • Lifestyle: your doctor may suggest changes in your lifestyle to reduce your chances of another stroke

Resources and Support

There is lots of information about strokes on the internet. You might find these websites especially helpful:

This is the website for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. It is packed with information about strokes and has many links to other websites including hospitals in your area that are certified to handle strokes and other local resources. You can click on the “Languages” tab to read it in English, Spanish, Chinese or Vietnamese.

This is the website of the National Stroke Association with lots of information about strokes. You can click on the “En Espanol” tab to read it in Spanish.

This is a government website that has all kinds of information about strokes including videos and brochures. You can click on the “Espanol” tab to read it in Spanish.