Neurosciences Institute

Stroke risk

Know the risk factors and warning signs of a stroke

Knowing the risk factors for stroke and working with your care team to lower your risk can reduce your chance of disability.

If a stroke happens, rapid treatment will give you the best opportunity for a full recovery. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs for stroke and what to do if you or a loved one develops symptoms of a stroke.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of a stroke, call


Stroke risk factors

Anyone – men, women and people of all ages and races – can have a stroke. Certain lifestyle choices and health conditions can increase your risk. The good news is that you can reduce your chances of having a stroke by living a healthy lifestyle. If you need help improving your health to prevent a stroke, you can work with our dedicated Novant Health care team to get medication or other treatments.

Risk factors that can be controlled:

  • Alcohol use
  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Clogged arteries
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Circulation problems
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity

Risk factors that cannot be controlled:

  • Age (people over 55 are at a higher risk)
  • Gender (men are at a higher risk)
  • Family history
  • Fibromuscular (dysplasia, or abnormal changes in cells)
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO, or hole in the heart)
  • Previous stroke history
  • Race (risks are greater for blacks, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics)

If you have risk factors, talk with your novant health provider about how to lower your risk. If you do not have a provider, contact us to find one near you.

Stroke warning signs

During a stroke, every second counts. Treatment is most effective when started right away. If you have any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately if you experience:

  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Blurred vision, dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Problems with coordination, movement or walking
  • Severe headaches with no known cause

Less common signs of a stroke may include:

  • Sudden nausea, vomiting or fever not caused by a virus
  • Brief loss of or change in consciousness, such as fainting, confusion or seizures

The letters in the word fast can help you remember the warning signs of a stroke and what to do:

  • F – Facial paralysis
  • A – Arm weakness
  • S – Speech difficulties
  • T – Time to call 911

Do not ignore these warning signs, even if they go away. You may have other medical problems, including a transient ischemic attack (tia or mini-stroke), which has the signs and symptoms of a stroke, but goes away after a period of time. A tia is caused by a temporary lack of adequate blood and oxygen (ischemia) to the brain.

If you’ve had a stroke, we’re dedicated to caring for you when and where you need us. Novant Health’s hospitals are nationally recognized by the joint commission for advanced stroke care. Our talented clinicians are available 24-hours a day. This means we can offer world-class stroke treatment more quickly, improving your chance for a healthy recovery.

Stroke Risk Assessment