Stroke Risk Factors and Symptoms

There are many risk factors and symptoms of a stroke. For instance, it can cause sudden headaches, loss of vision, or hemiplegia.
Stroke Risk Factors and Symptoms

Last update: 30 November, 2020

A stroke is an abrupt neurological syndrome that comes with many risk factors and symptoms. It either involves bleeding or loss of blood circulation in the brain.

When the blood supply doesn’t properly reach the brain, then the death of brain tissue occurs. Thus, it results in a neurological deficit that can lead to disability or even death.

In reality, the term stroke simply refers to either bleeding or blood disruption in any organ. Thus, there are many types of strokes depending on the affected organ. In any case, the use of the word on its own usually refers to a cerebrovascular accident.

The prevalence of strokes is high, especially among the elderly. So, it’s important to know the symptoms and risk factors that could lead to it.

What’s a stroke?

Currently, the terms stroke, ictus, and cerebrovascular accident are often used as synonyms. However, there are some differences:

  • “Ictus” or “stroke.” This implies a cessation of blood flow in the brain. Firstly, it may be caused by an obstruction in any of the blood vessels that supply the brain (ischemia). This is usually related to atherosclerosis problems. Secondly, it may be due to intracerebral hemorrhage or hemorrhagic stroke.
  • “Apoplexy” is an old term. They originally used it for naming the interruption of certain brain functions.

Stroke risk factors

A cranium highlighting a stroke.

There are many risk factors for stroke. On the one hand, there are the non-modifiable risk factors, which include age, sex or family history. From the age of 55, the risk of having a stroke doubles with every 10 years that go by. In addition, there’s a higher incidence in men than in women. Note also that if a family member already had a stroke, the possibility of its occurrence increases.

On the other hand, there are several modifiable factors:

  • Arterial hypertension. This is the most frequent vascular disorder and its incidence also increases with age. Normal blood pressure figures are 130/80 mmHg. So, you should limit your salt intake to 2 grams a day to better control your blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.
  • Smoking. This directly harms the arteries.
  • Cholesterol. Levels above 200 mg/dL could lead to atherosclerosis problems and an increased risk of arterial obstruction. So, it’s essential to mind your diet and reduce your consumption of saturated fats.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. You should exercise or walk half an hour every day, five days a week, at the very least.
  • Stress is also an important cardiovascular risk factor.
  • Additionally, diabetes is a determinant and so is having previously had cardiovascular disease.

Stroke symptoms

An illustration of high cholesterol.

Symptoms vary depending on the affected brain area. They could be sensory, motor or mixed. The most common are:

  • Dysarthria. It consists of difficulty to speak or understand language.
  • Hemiparesis and hemiplegia. This is the loss of strength or paralysis in an arm and leg of the same side of the body as well as part of the face.
  • Balance and coordination problems. Usually, there’s also dizziness.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Sudden and severe headache. There may also be a loss of vision.

However, there are situations in which a stroke may be of low intensity and duration and goes unnoticed. So, there may only be subtle muscle weakness, small episodes of amnesia and/or disorientation.

Should any of these symptoms occur, then you must go to the emergency room. A stroke is a time-dependent condition and you must treat it as soon as possible.


When confronted with a stroke, it’s very important that you go to a hospital as soon as you can so you can begin early treatment. Keep in mind that you’ll only be able to recover any affected brain functions throughout the first hours.

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