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A stroke or “brain attack” occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery—a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body—or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. In either scenario, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.

When these brain cells die, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities include speech, movement and memory. The severity of the stroke and how much damage occurs depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.

Distress signals of a stroke may last a few moments and then disappear. Such warning signs might be:

• Sudden severe headache with no known cause
• Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
• Sudden difficulty speaking or trouble understanding speech
• Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body

In the case of stroke, prevention is still the best medicine. Preventable risk factors for stroke include:

• Cigarette smoking: Medical help is available to help quit.
• Diabetes: Treatment can delay complications that increase the risk of stroke.
• High blood pressure: Eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise
• Transient ischemic attacks: These are brief episodes of stroke’s warning signs and can be treated with drugs or surgery.
• Heart disease: Your doctor will treat your heart disease and may also prescribe medications to help prevent the formation of clots.

See your doctor for more ways to keep yourself healthy and eliminate possible risk factors for stroke.

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