May is National Stroke Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn more about stroke.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and a major cause of serious disability for adults. More than 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke risk increases with age, especially after 55, but strokes can occur at any age.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can reduce brain damage and other complications.
The two main causes of stroke are a blocked artery, which causes an ischemic stroke, or a leaking or burst blood vessel, which causes a hemorrhagic stroke. Some people may have only a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain, known as a transient ischemic attack, that doesn't cause lasting symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of stroke include:
Trouble speaking and understanding what others are saying: You may be confused, 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 affects just one side of your body. Try to raise 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.
Problems 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 that you're having a stroke.
Trouble walking: You may stumble or lose your balance. You also may have sudden dizziness or loss of coordination.