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Stroke Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A computer.

What is stroke?

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die.

An illustration showing tissue death in the brain after a stroke, and blocked blood vessel as a result of a stroke.

There are two types of stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels to the brain. Fatty deposits called plaque can also cause blockages by building up in the blood vessels.

The second type, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. Blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue. Find out more about stroke.

What are the symptoms of stroke?

Major signs of stroke include—

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

A woman with a headache.Find out more about stroke’s signs and symptoms.

What should you do if you think someone is having a stroke?

If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Why do you need to act fast?

Getting fast medical treatment lowers your risk of disability or even death. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms—and to get help right away.

What are the risk factors for stroke?

Several conditions and certain lifestyle choices can put people at higher risk for stroke. The most important risk factors are—

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Prior stroke

Everyone can take steps to lower the risk for stroke. Find out more about risk factors.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

You can take several steps to reduce your risk for stroke—

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Prevent or treat high cholesterol.
  • Prevent or treat high blood pressure.
  • Prevent or treat diabetes.

Talk with your doctor about the best ways to lower your risk for stroke. Find out more about preventing stroke.

How many Americans die from stroke?

Stroke kills almost 130,000 people a year in the United States. It is a leading cause of death.1 Over 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular disease and strokes. Stroke is also a leading cause of serious long-term disability. See more facts and statistics.

How much does stroke cost the United States?

Stroke costs the nation $36.5 billion annually, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.2 See more facts and statistics.

What does CDC do to address stroke?

CDC has several initiatives to help people prevent and control stroke. CDC funds state health departments to develop interventions aimed at preventing stroke and controlling its risk factors. CDC also funds states to track stroke data through the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry to improve hospital care. In addition, CDC supports a national plan with targeted recommendations and specific action steps to reduce heart disease and stroke across the country. For more information, see how CDC addresses stroke.


References

  1. Miniño AM, Murphy SL, Xu J, Kochanek KD. Deaths: Final data for 2008 [PDF-2.9M]. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 59 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011.
  2. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Blaha MJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2014;128.

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