According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Each year, almost 800,000 strokes occur, and nearly 130,000 people die. Women are particularly vulnerable to stroke, and in fact, stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer each year, according to the National Stroke Association.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain has stopped or is severely reduced, depriving the brain of the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die, and the brain can be damaged. Quick medical intervention is needed to prevent brain damage and complications.

A stroke can cause temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the brain suffers a lack of blood flow and which area was affected.


  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.


  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Cardiovascular disease, including an abnormal heart rhythm
  • Estrogen medication
  • Heavy or binge drinking
  • Use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamines
  • A family history of stroke or heart attack
  • African American race
  • Migraine headaches

While strokes can be serious, they can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle and aggressively controling risk factors. If you are worried about your risk, please discuss your concerns with your doctor.

To make an appointment with a stroke specialist or to refer a patient, please call 502-589-0802.

Editor’s Note: UofL Today reprints To Your Health articles from the “UofL Physicians-Insider” newsletter. Read the entire May Issue (opens as a PDF document).

Sources: National Stroke Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WebMD.