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Published on October 24, 2018

Q&A: Stroke Risk

with Melissa Bertha, DO, a family medicine physician

A stroke usually occurs when a blood clot disrupts the flow of blood to the brain.

Melissa BerthaWithout sufficient blood and oxygen, parts of the brain begin to die. That’s why a stroke is always an emergency.

Most strokes are preventable. One way to avoid a stroke is to know what puts you at risk for having one. Melissa Bertha, DO, a family medicine physician at Mercy Primary Care–Roosevelt Boulevard, talks about stroke risk factors and how you can lower them.

What are the most common risk factors for stroke?

Some of the most common risk factors for stroke include having high blood pressure or diabetes, a history of smoking, high cholesterol, or certain heart conditions—such as atrial fibrillation and being overweight or physically inactive.

What can you do to reduce your risk for stroke?

The first thing you should do is talk with your doctor and find out what your personal risk factors are. But in general, you should try to eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in salt and saturated fat. You should also get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. And you should quit smoking if you smoke.

What are common symptoms of stroke?

The easiest way to remember the symptoms of stroke is with the letters FAST. F stands for facial weakness. Can the person smile? Or does their mouth or an eye droop? A stands for arms. Can the person raise both arms equally? S is for speech problems. Can the person speak clearly without slurring words? And T is for time. It emphasizes the importance of calling 911 right away.

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