A stroke, sometimes called a “brain attack”, occurs when something blocks the blood supply to part of the brain, known as ischemic stroke, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, known as hemorrhagic stroke. You can greatly reduce your risk for stroke through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication.

To understand stroke, it helps to understand the brain.  The brain controls our movements, stores our memories, and is the source of our thoughts, emotions, and language.  The brain also controls many functions of the body, like breathing and digestion. To work properly, your brain needs oxygen.  When something happens that blocks the flow of oxygen to the brain, the brain cells are damaged.  This causes a stroke.


Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable!  If you want to prevent a stroke, the CDC recommends living a healthy lifestyle and preventing or treating your medical conditions.  Here are some healthy behaviors that will minimize your risk of stroke:

  • Know your blood pressure! If it’s high, control your blood pressure through diet, exercise and medication.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fat-free or low fat dairy products. Limit foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and sugar.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. To determine if your weight is in a healthy range, you can calculate your body mass index (BMI).
  • Stay active. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking, water aerobics, bicycling) for at least 150 minutes per week.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke.  If you need help quitting, call the QUIT NOW Virginia toll free line (1-800-784-8669).
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and the risk of stroke.

Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Some new treatments can reduce stroke damage if you get medical care soon after symptoms begin. When a stroke happens, it is important to recognize the symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away, and get to a hospital quickly.

The below signs and symptoms come on suddenly.

If you or someone you know experiences the below symptoms call 9-1-1 immediately. Every minute counts!

 Common Signs and Symptoms How to Test
 Face Drooping  Ask the person to smile.  Look for  weakness or drooping on one side of the  face.
 Arm Weakness  Ask the person to raise their arms.  Look  to see if one arm drifts downward.
 Speech Difficulty  Ask the person to repeat a simple  phrase.  Listen for slurring.
 Other Important Signs:
 Balance Problems  Look for trouble walking or loss of  balance or coordination.
 Eye Changes  Ask the person if they are having trouble  seeing.
 Headache  Ask the person if they have a headache.


Type of stroke, ischemic or hemorrhagic, will determine which treatment options are available. Ischemic stroke occurs when a clot or embolism blocks a blood vessel going to the brain and is the most common type of stroke. The goal of treatment is to bust or remove the clot, the available options of treatment are time sensitive so call 911 at first suspicion of stroke. Depending on the stroke location, time from onset of symptoms, and hospital specialization will determine if treatment with a clot-busting drug or physical removal of the clot is an option. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened vessel in the brain bursts spilling blood into surrounding brain tissue. The goal of treatment is to stop the bleeding either by a catheter guided coil or by surgical means.

After Stroke

More than 7 million stroke survivors live in the United States. Life after stroke is a family affair including the survivor, loved ones, and caregivers. Every stroke survivor is unique and affected differently so rehabilitation, recovery, and support tools should be geared to the individual. Recovery is life-long and involves physical, cognitive, social, and emotional aspects. Visit our resource page for additional information on support groups, rehabilitation centers, and life after stroke recovery.