Stroke care at UTMB Health

Learning more about stroke, risk factors and prevention

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, causes brain tissue to die, which can lead to brain damage, disability and death. Strokes occur in one of two ways:

  • Ischemic stroke—when the blood supply to the brain is blocked
  • Hemorrhagic stroke—when a blood vessel in the brain bursts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. Strokes kill nearly 150,000 of the 860,000 Americans who die of cardiovascular disease each year—that’s one in every 19 deaths from all causes.

Who’s at risk?

Anyone, including children, can have a stroke at any time. Every year, about 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke—and about 1 out of 4 of those strokes are recurrent strokes. Having one stroke means you have a greater risk of having another (or recurrent) stroke.

Several factors that are beyond your control can increase your risk for stroke. These include your age, sex and ethnicity. But there are many unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough exercise, that you can change to lower your stroke risk. Using tobacco products and having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity can also increase your risk for stroke.

However, treating these conditions can reduce your risk.

Can a stroke be prevented?

High blood pressure is the single most important treatable risk factor for stroke. Preventing, diagnosing and controlling blood pressure through lifestyle changes and medicine are critical to reducing stroke risks. According to the CDC, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk for stroke:

  • Eat a healthy diet low in sodium with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Limit alcohol use. 
  • Prevent or manage your other health conditions, especially high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.

Look for more articles in the coming days as UTMB continues taking part in the American Heart Association’s Stroke Awareness Month, which began in May 1989 as a way to promote public awareness and reduce the incidence of stroke in the United States.

Stroke Care and Prevention