The signs of a stroke are:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion
- Sudden trouble speaking
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
The effects of an acute ischemic stroke may cause additional symptoms in women including:
- Face, arm or leg pain
- Hiccups or nausea
- Chest pain or palpitations
- Shortness of breath
For hemorrhagic stroke, symptoms may also include:
- Sudden, intense headache
- Facial pain
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Frequent fluctuations in heartbeat and breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of stroke vary, based on type:
- Acute ischemic strokes occur when blood supply is cut off to part of the brain. This type of stroke accounts for 87 percent of all strokes.
- Hemorrhagic strokes happen when blood from an artery suddenly begins bleeding into the brain. Bleeding can happen inside the brain (intracranial) or between the brain and the membrane that covers it (subarachnoid).
While strokes can happen to anyone at any age, including children, risk does increase as a person gets older. While men are more likely to have a stroke, women are more likely to die from one. A family history of stroke, or a personal history of stroke or heart attack, also increase the risk of stroke. Research also has shown African-Americans are at higher risk of stroke than Caucasians.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease and high blood cholesterol are all risk factors for stroke. The top preventable risk factor for stroke, however, is smoking. Both the nicotine and carbon monoxide found in tobacco smoke lower the amount of oxygen in your blood. They also damage the walls of blood vessels, making clots more likely to form. Combining the use of some kinds of birth control pills with smoking greatly increases a woman's stroke risk.