Stroke Prevention, Risks, Symptoms & Treatment

Stroke is a Medical Emergency: If you believe you or someone near you is having a stroke, call 911 immediately!

St. Vincent’s Medical Center experts want you and your loved ones to know how to prevent stroke, decrease the risks and recognize the symptoms. Making lifestyle changes NOW can help you decrease your risk of stroke. 

Our goal at St. Vincent’s Primary Stroke Center is to decrease the number of strokes, to give both hope and assistance to those who have suffered stroke, and to help those in our community who been touched by stroke.

  • St. Vincent’s Primary Stroke Center of Excellence is fully equipped to begin instant interventions that can make an enormous difference in a stroke patient’s outcome including immediate use of effective medications and therapies.
  • St. Vincent’s was named Gold Performance Achievement Award winner by the American Stroke Association guidelines program, which uses key measures for 24 months to make its determination. 

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in, around or leading to the brain ruptures or becomes blocked. When this happens, the area of the brain supplied by the affected blood vessel fails to work properly.

Know Your Stroke Risk

Education and embracing a healthy lifestyle can help you reduce your risk factor. Stroke can happen at any age, especially if you have an unhealthy lifestyle or family history of stroke. Work with your doctor to determine a course of action to prevent stroke. 

  • Take control over risk factors that you can change: smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol level, weight and diet. Obesity and lack of exercise are your biggest enemies as are smoking, alcohol and use of illegal drugs.

  • If you are older than 60, your risk increases. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or diabetes, your risk of a stroke is higher.  Work with your doctor to create a stroke-prevention lifestyle plan for your specific condition.

How to Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T.

Early intervention is necessary. Brain cells, once lost, are irreplaceable. If the stroke victim receives the right care within the right timeframe, it can save his or her ability to have a normal life. 
FAST is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. Recognition of stroke and calling 9-1-1 will determine how quickly someone will receive help and treatment. Getting to a hospital rapidly will more likely lead to a better recovery.
F - FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A - ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S - SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T - TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and go immediately to the emergency room. 


Cardinal symptoms of stroke include: 

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

  • Sudden trouble seeing affecting one or both eyes

  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Stroke Treatment: Time is Brain

“Time is Brain” sums up the process of swift destruction that begins when a person suffers a stroke. The longer the time between occurrence of a stroke and medical intervention, the more brain cells are destroyed.

Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the only currently approved FDA treatment drug for stroke available today, and is used to treat acute ischemic stroke. This is a clot dissolving drug that can diminish stroke symptoms. However, tPA MUST be given within a few hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. 

Stroke is serious by its very nature, targeting cells in the body - and in particular, those in the brain - that cannot survive without blood flow to bring them nutrients and oxygen.

Since all of our physical systems and organs, from the nervous system to our heart and lungs, are dependent on brain function, damage to the brain produces far-reaching, potentially lethal effects.

After Your Stroke

At St. Vincent’s, rehabilitation starts as soon as possible after a stroke and continues after you leave the hospital to go home or to a rehabilitation center on an outpatient basis. As a stroke survivor, you and your health care team will find workable solutions to the most difficult situations and relearn new skills to help you recover. This can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and other support services to help you be as independent as possible.

Learn More about Stroke


To find a St. Vincent’s physician who can discuss your health concerns or those of a loved one, please click on our FIND A DOCTOR tool and search by specialty, practice, location or keyword. We’re here to help you locate the medical expert you need. 

To speak with someone at the front desk of the Medical Center, please call (203) 576-6000