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A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly interrupted or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding brain cells. Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood or there is a sudden bleeding into or around the brain. The symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination; or sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Who is at Risk?

Stroke prevention is still the best medicine. The most important treatable conditions linked to stroke are: treating high blood pressure - eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and taking drugs to reduce blood pressure; quitting cigarette smoking; managing heart disease - your doctor may prescribe medication to help prevent the formation of clots; controlling diabetes with your doctor; seeking help after Transient Ischemic Attacks - these are small strokes that last only for a few minutes or hours and should never be ignored, but should be treated with drugs or surgery; seeing your doctor if you think you have sleep apnea; obesity - reducing your dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol; excessive alcohol intake and illegal drug use; and treating certain blood disorders by prescribing "blood thinners." Risk factors that cannot be changed include age - from age 55 onward, your chances of having a stroke more than double every ten years; gender - the incidence of stroke is about 19% higher for men than for women; race - African Americans and Hispanic Americans have a higher risk of stroke than Caucasians do; and heredity - the risk of stroke is greater in people who have a family history of stroke.

Sources: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Texas Heart Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, American Heart Association

Recent Stroke Research and News at The Scripps Research Institute

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