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Risk Factors for Stroke

Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries leading to the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, the parts of the brain that are deprived of oxygen can become permanently damaged.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death among adults.

More than 750,000 Americans experience stroke each year. For each of them, immediate medical attention is crucial for survival and recovery – as well as education and prevention. At Saint Thomas Health, we are dedicated to helping you take the earliest possible steps to keep yourself safe and healthy. That means knowing the major risk factors for stroke, which include:
Dr. Frank LaFranchise
Dr. Frank LaFranchise serves as the Medical Director of the stroke program at Saint Thomas West Hospital. For a complete listing of Dr. LaFranchise's credentials please click here.

  • High Blood Pressure - A balanced diet, healthy weight and exercise all help reduce blood pressure.
  • Tobacco Use - Smoking constricts blood vessels, which causes blood pressure to rise.
  • Heart Disease - Stay active, eat a balanced diet, don't smoke and follow your doctor's recommendations for treatment.
  • Diabetes - Follow your doctor's recommendations regarding lifestyle, medication and eating.
  • Alcohol Use - Keep consumption to a minimum.
  • Inactive Lifestyle - Exercise 30 minutes a day, three times per week to keep your risk low.
  • Cholesterol - Keep it under control by exercising and eating a balanced diet.

Know the 5 major reversible/treatable risk factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Smoking

Know the 5 common signs of a stroke

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Sudden severe headache, the worst you've ever had.
  • Dizziness and difficulty with balance

Know your responsibility in stroke prevention and treatment

  • Call 911 for stroke symptoms and get to the nearest stroke center
  • Take all meds as directed
  • Continually follow-up with medical care
  • Exercise daily
  • Eat a balanced diet that is low in fat

What to do: Call 911 - Do not wait for symptoms to go away.