Sunday, February 11, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 11, 2001

Are you at risk for a stroke?

American Heart Association of Hawai'i

Warning signs

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side the body
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden, severe headaches with no known cause

Risk factors

• Increasing age: The chance of having a stroke more than doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
• Sex: While data show that the overall incidence and prevalence of stroke are about equal for men and women, more than half of total stroke deaths occur in women.
• Heredity: The chance of stroke is greater in people who have a family history of stroke, so knowing your family medical history is important.
• Race: African Americans have a much higher risk of death and disability from a stroke than Caucasians, in part because they have a greater incidence of high blood pressure, a major stroke risk factor. In Hawaii, 12 percent of Caucasians, 14 percent of Filipinos, 16 percent of Hawaiians and 22 percent of Japanese have high blood pressure.
• Prior stroke: The risk of stroke for someone who already has had one is many times that of a person who has not.
• High blood pressure: Stroke risk varies directly with blood pressure, making it one of the most important risk factors for stroke.
• Cigarette smoking: The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system in many ways. The use of oral contraceptives combined with cigarette smoking greatly increases stroke risk.
• Other diseases: Diabetes, carotid artery disease and heart disease are risk factors for stroke. Heart attack is also the major cause of death among survivors of stroke.
• Transient ischemic attacks: These are "mini strokes" that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. But they are strong predictors of stroke.
• High red blood cell count: A moderate or marked increase in the red blood cell count is a risk factor for stroke. More red blood cells thicken the blood and make clots more likely.

The best advice

• Call 911 as soon as possible: Getting to the hospital immediately after suffering a stroke can save your life.

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