May is National Stroke Awareness Month. In recognition of this month, UAB Medical West would like to educate the community about the symptoms of a stroke, as well as an individual's risk factors.

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Although many people think of stroke as a condition that affects only older adults, strokes can and do occur in people of all ages. In fact, nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than age 65.

When responding to a stroke, every minute counts. The sooner a patient receives medical treatment, the lower the risk for death or disability.  

If you or a loved one have any of the symptoms below, call 911 immediately!


Stroke Symtoms

  • Weakness. You may feel weakness, tingling, or a loss of feeling on one side of your face or body.
  • Vision Problems. You may have sudden double vision or trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Speech Problems. You may have sudden trouble talking, slurred speech, or problems understanding others.
  • Headache. You may have a sudden, severe headache.
  • Movement Problems. You may experience dizziness, a feeling of spinning, a loss of balance, a feeling of falling, or blackouts.

Certain health and lifestyle issues—called risk factors—increase your chances of having a stroke. The leading risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure, but there are many other factors that also put you at risk. 

Risk factors are different for each person. Determine the factors below that may apply to you. Keep in mind that some factors, such as your age, can’t be changed. But others CAN be managed.


Stroke Risk Factors
Health Risk Factors
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You’re overweight.
  • You have unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • You have atrial fibrillation.
  • You’ve had a heart attack.
  • You have narrowed arteries.
  • You have diabetes.


Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • You rarely exercise.
  • You often eat salty, fried, or greasy foods.
  • You smoke.
  • You have more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day.


Age and Family History

  • You’re over age 60.
  • A parent, brother, or sister has had a stroke.


Metabolic Syndrome Raises Risk 

Any of the factors above puts you at increased risk of stroke. But having 3 or more of certain risk factors (a condition called metabolic syndrome) multiplies your risk. These factors include too much weight around your waist, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. If you have any of these risk factors, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.


If you have risk factors for stroke, contact your primary care physician or cardiologist for further evaluation. To schedule an appointment with a UAB Medical West physician, call 996-WEST.