Identifying Strokes

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and effects approximately 800,000 people each year. A stroke occurs when the oxygen to supply to the brain is interrupted and the cells that are reliant on that oxygen begin to die.

Warning Signs

The sooner a stroke is detected, the sooner it can be treated. Early detection increases the chance that the patient will be able to recover. Some warning signs of stroke include sudden weakness in the arms, legs, or face; sudden confusion; sudden vision problems; dizziness, sudden difficulty walking or other losses of balance; and severe head pain. The American Stroke Association uses the “FAST” technique for identifying and reacting to strokes:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic strokes are the more common form of stroke. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks blood and oxygen from being carried to the brain. The blood clot may form in the heart and travel to the brain where it blocks crucial blood flow, or it can form in an artery and similarly travel to the brain and block oxygen and blood flow. Strokes caused by blood clots formed in the arteries are usually found in people with high blood pressure and/or cholesterol.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes are significantly less common than ischemic strokes but are still responsible for about 40% of stroke deaths. One way that a hemorrhagic stroke can occur is when a blood cell in the brain either bursts or begins to leak and kill surrounding tissue and brain cells. Other way this type of stroke may occur is from head trauma, blood thinners, and other factors that cause bleeding in the brain.


Strokes can occur as a result of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions. In order to reduce your chance of stroke it is important to take steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as keeping a healthy diet and exercising regularly.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works