Get to Know Stroke Warning Signs & Risk Factors

Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, but your chances of surviving a stroke greatly improve when you know how to recognize the warning signs and take steps to lower your risk of having one.

Two main types of stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted. This prevents your brain from getting the oxygen it needs and can cause brain cells to die almost immediately. Stroke can be an incredibly debilitating disease, resulting in brain damage, disability and even death.

There are two main types of stroke: Ischemic strokes, which occur when there is a blockage to your brain, and hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when a blood vessel bursts within the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common, but can be more dangerous.

A third kind of stroke, called a transient ischemic or “mini” stroke, can also occur. This kind of stroke is called a “mini stroke” because the blood supply to the brain is blocked only briefly, usually for a few minutes. Still, it’s an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. The majority of people who suffer a mini stroke will suffer a major stroke in the coming months.

Are you at risk for having a stroke?

A common misconception is that only older people have strokes. While age does increase your risk of having a stroke, it can happen at any age. One of the best ways to protect yourself from having one is to understand the risk factors. Although some factors you can’t control, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable when you take steps to lower your risk.

  • Risk factors you can’t control: Family history of stroke; personal history with stroke; Black, Hispanic or American Indian race or ethnicity
  • Risk factors you can control: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking

BE FAST to recognize stroke warning signs

When it comes to stroke, every minute matters. Being able to quickly call for help after recognizing the warning signs of a stroke in yourself or someone you are with can improve outcomes. One of the best ways to remember the warning signs that may indicate a stroke is to memorize the acronym BE FAST:



B – Balance – Is the person having trouble with balance or coordination?

E – Eyes – Does the person have blurred, double vision or loss of vision?

F – Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

A – Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb?

S – Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they difficult to understand?

T – Time to call 911

Time matters when seeking stroke treatment, and treatments are most effective if they are administered as soon as possible after symptoms present. While some treatments, like thrombectomy, are effective in the hours following a stroke, it’s still important to seek timely care for a stroke as soon as you notice symptoms.

Bryn Mawr Hospital’s Neurointerventional Lab is staffed 24/7 by Jefferson Hospital neurosurgeons who perform complex and minimally invasive neurovascular procedures and stroke services, including intra-arterial tPA, endovascular coiling for hemorrhagic stroke, angioplasty and stenting. Having convenient access to this emergency care helps more patients quickly get the treatment they need and ultimately saves lives.

To learn more about stroke care at Main Line Health, call 866-225-5654 or visit our website.

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