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Understanding Stroke Symptoms & Risks

Time lost is brain lost. Too many people do not recognize a stroke when it is happening and unfortunately wait too long to receive treatment before it's too late.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a disruption of blood flow to the brain.  This disruption can be the result of a clog from a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel which stops the flow of blood to the brain or a part of the brain. When blood flow is stopped, much needed oxygen and nutrients carried by blood cannot get to the brain. If blood flow and oxygen to the brain are not restored in a matter of minutes, the stroke can damage brain cells and result in devastating consequences like paralysis, speech impediment, memory loss, vision loss, changes in behavior, and loss of self-dependence.

Warning Signs of a Stroke

Know stroke symptoms! When symptoms strike, get immediate emergency care. If you or someone you know experiences one or more of the following symptoms, CALL 911 or GO TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY! Receiving treatment within the first few hours can greatly reduce the risk of permanent damage or even death.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
  • Sudden nausea, fever, vomiting, or having brief fainting spells.

Stroke Risk Factors

Everyone has some stroke risk.Risk factors include both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors.  Controllable risk factors are those that you can change, often by making different lifestyle choices. Work to lower your risk factors as much as you can by managing your controllable risk factors.

According to the American Stroke Association, you are at a greater risk of having a stroke if you have one or more of the following controllable or uncontrollable risk factors.

Controllable Risk Factors

  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Having high cholesterol.
  • Having a high red blood cell count.
  • Smoking.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Being  inactive or lack of exercise.
  • Heavy or excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Cocaine/IV drug use.
  • Experiencing heart and/or vascular disease.
  • Having diabetes.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

  • If you are a man, being aged 45 or older.
  • If you are a women, being aged 55 or older.
  • Having sickle cell anemia.  Your racial/ethnic group may be at higher risk for stroke than other groups.  For example, African Americans are twice at risk of stroke.
  • Having a family history of stroke.
  • Having a personal history of stroke of TIAs (mini strokes).

Stroke Facts

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America killing nearly 157,000 people each year.  It is the most common cause of disability in adults. A stroke occurs every 45 seconds affecting an estimated 750,000 people suffer a stroke each year.

Contact Us

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital

Stroke Care
610.237.4289


Mercy Philadelphia Hospital

Specialized Stroke Care
215.748.9592

Community Outreach
Stroke Support Group

215.748.9700


Mercy Suburban Hospital

Stroke Care
610.278.2306


Nazareth Hospital

Stroke Care
215.335.7732