Stroke - The Basics

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Everyone should know the basics about strokes. Given the evidence that having Migraine disease increases our risk of stroke, it is especially important for Migraineurs to know the warning signs of stroke AND how to reduce our modifiable stroke risks.

Quick facts about stroke:

  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. In 2006, 137,119 people died from stroke in the United States.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.
  • About 795,000 strokes occur in the United States each year. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes. About 185,000 occur in people who have already had a stroke before.
  • Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people aged 65 years or older. The risk of having a stroke doubles each decade after the age of 55.
  • Strokes can—and do—occur at ANY age. Nearly 25% of strokes occur in people younger than age 65.
  • Stroke death rates are higher for African Americans than for whites, even at younger ages.
  • According to the American Heart Association, stroke will cost almost $73.7 billion in both direct and indirect costs in 2010.
  • It has been noted for several decades that the southeastern United States has the highest stroke mortality rates in the country. It is not completely clear what factors might contribute to the higher incidence of and mortality from stroke in this region.
  • People with a family history of stroke have a higher risk.

What is stroke?

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 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.
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