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Know the Warning Signs of a Stroke

To Contact Stroke Services

If this is an emergency, 911.

Remember the acronym F.A.S.T. It stands for face, arm (or leg), speech and time. If a person experiences sudden one-sided face, arm or leg weakness or change in speech it may be the onset of a stroke. Also, when it comes to stroke, time is critical. Getting help quickly is essential for improved outcomes. But knowing where to turn for treatment is also a critical decision. At VCU Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, we have the experience and expertise to help stroke patients efficiently and effectively.



  • Face
  • Arm
  • Speech
  • Time - call 911 as soon as possible        

Understanding Stroke Risk Factors

When it comes to stroke, time is brain. Getting help quickly is essential. But knowing where to turn for treatment is also a critical decision. At VCU Health, stroke patients have the best chance for the best outcome.

Certain factors are important considerations in a person's chance or risk of a stroke. Some risk factors can be changed, treated or modified - and some are not within our control, like heredity.

  • High blood pressure: The main risk factor for stroke, blood pressure is considered high if it stays at or above 140/90 over time. 
  • Smoking: Damaging blood vessels and raising blood pressure, smoking also may reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your body's tissues. Exposure to secondhand smoke also can damage the blood vessels.
  • Diabetes: A disease in which the blood sugar level is high because the body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use its insulin properly, diabetes increases the risk of stroke. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it's used for energy so proper management is necessary.
  • Heart disease: Coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease), heart failure and atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots that can lead to a stroke.
  • Brain aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs): Aneurysms are balloon-like bulges in an artery that can stretch and burst. AVMs are tangles of faulty arteries and veins that can rupture or break open within the brain. AVMs may be present at birth, but often aren't diagnosed until they rupture.
  • Age and gender: Your risk of stroke increases as you get older. At younger ages, men are more likely than women to have strokes. However, women are more likely to die from stroke. Women who take birth control pills also are at slightly higher risk of stroke.
  • Race and ethnicity: Strokes occur more often in African American, Alaska Native and American Indian adults than in Caucasian, Hispanic or Asian American adults.
  • Personal or family history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA): If you've had a stroke, you're at higher risk for another one. Your risk of having a repeat stroke is the highest right after a stroke. A TIA – also called a "mini-stroke" – increases your risk of having a stroke, as does having a family history of stroke.

Other risk factors for stroke, many of which of you can control, include:

  • Alcohol and illegal drug use, including cocaine, amphetamines and other drugs
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Obesity
  • Stress and depression
  • Certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, inflammation of the blood vessels and bleeding disorders

Following a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of stroke. 

  • Some people also may need to take medicines to lower their risk.
  • Sometimes strokes can occur in people who don't have any known risk factors so it is important to know the signs of a stroke.

National Quality Approval NHA/NSA The American Heart Association has awarded our Stroke team with their Get With The Guidelines award, Stroke Gold Plus, Target: Stroke Elite Plus, & Target: Type 2 Diabetes Honor roll Award.