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Stroke Causes & Risks


A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked (called ischemic stroke). This is caused by one of the following:

  • Sudden decreased blood flow
    • Damage to a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain can occur suddenly from either:
      • Injury
      • A clot that forms and breaks off from another part of the body (such as the heart or neck)
        There are certain conditions which predispose people to form blood clots, such as:
  • Local blood clot
    • A build-up of fatty substances ( atherosclerotic plaque ) along the inner lining of the artery causes:
      • Narrowing of artery
      • Reduced elasticity
      • Local inflammation
      • Decreased blood flow in the artery
  • Clot in an artery supplying the brain
  • Inflammatory conditions in the blood vessels (vasculitis)

A stroke may also occur if a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into or around the brain. This is called hemorrhagic stroke.

Hemorrhagic vs. Ischemic Stroke

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© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors

These risk factors increase your chance of developing a stroke. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.

Risk factors you can affect:

Risk factors you cannot affect:

  • Prior stroke or pre-existing cardiovascular disease such as heart attack
  • Prior transient ischemic attack (TIA)
    • Some people experience a "warning stroke" or TIA. This is a temporary interruption of the brain's blood supply (mini-stroke). These are stroke symptoms that resolve completely within minutes. There may be a very high risk of having a full-blown stroke in the near future.
  • Age: 60 or older
  • Family members who have had a stroke
  • Gender: males are at greater risk than females
  • Race: Black, Asian, Hispanic
  • Blood disorders which increase clotting in sickle cell disease and polycythemia
  • Valvular heart disease such as mitral stenosis

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2024 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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