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
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.