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Mitchell S.V. Elkind, M.D., American Heart Association president-elect, Chair of the Advisory Committee of the American Stroke Association — a division of the American Heart Association, and professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University in New York, responds to questions from stroke survivors about COVID-19 on April 1, 2020.

Some of the responses could apply to anyone with heart and stroke disease risk factors and survivors.

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5 Key facts about stroke:

FACT #1: Stroke kills brain cells, it happens when a clot or rupture interrupts blood flow to the brain. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die.

FACT #2: Types of stroke - Ischemic is caused by a clot, Hemorrhagic is caused by a rupture and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or "mini stroke" is caused by a temporary blockage.

FACT #3: About one in four stroke survivors is at risk for another Fortunately, up to 80 percent of second clot-related strokes may be preventable.

FACT #4: Prevention is key. Had a stroke? Create a plan with your doctor to prevent another, which may include managing high blood pressure and discussing aspirin or other medicine. Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.

FACT #5: Time lost is brain lost. Learn the FAST warning signs. F- Face Drooping A -Arm Weakness S -Speech Difficulty T- Time to call 911.

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

Anyone can have a stroke, and everyone should be prepared.

It's a matter of knowing what to do, taking action and spreading the word.

Did you know?

Up to 80 percent of strokes may be preventable.

The American Stroke Association recommends following “Life’s Simple 7” to achieve ideal health:

  • Don't smoke
  • Be physically active
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Control cholesterol
  • Control blood pressure
  • Reduce blood sugar

You can’t control some risk factors for stroke. So it’s important you know them:


The likelihood of having a stroke increases with age for both males and females. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes. Even babies and children can have a stroke.

Family History

If your parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke — especially before reaching age 65 — you may be at greater risk. Sometimes strokes are caused by genetic disorders like CADASIL, which can block blood flow in the brain.


African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do. This is partly because blacks have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Visit our Empowered to Serve program to learn more. Hispanics and Latinos also have unique risks for stroke.


Women have more strokes than men and stroke kills more women than men. Women tend to live longer than men and are older when they have a stroke. Factors that may increase stroke risks for women include pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use (especially when combined with smoking) and post-menopausal hormone therapy. Be sure to discuss your risks with your doctor.

Prior Stroke, TIA or Heart Attack

A person who has had a prior stroke has a much higher risk of having another stroke than a person who has never had one. A person who’s had one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't. TIAs are smaller, temporary blockages in the brain that can produce milder forms of stroke-like symptoms but may not leave lasting damage. A TIA is a medical emergency. So follow up immediately with a healthcare professional.

If you've had a heart attack, you're at higher risk of having a stroke. A heart attack is caused by plaque buildup that blocks blood vessels to the heart. Similarly, most strokes are caused by a buildup of plaque that cause blockages in the brain.

What do your blood pressure numbers mean?

The only way to know if you have high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension) is to have your blood pressure tested. Understanding your results is key to controlling high blood pressure.

The goal of stroke care is to minimize brain injury and maximize the patient’s recovery. The sooner the treatment, the better the chance for recovery. These EMS and FAST resources are designed to help ensure the Chain of Survival actions are taken by patients, family members, emergency medical personnel and healthcare providers to maximize stroke recovery. Learn more.

Important Dates in May

5/1-5/31 - American Stroke Month

5/5 - National Teachers Day

5/12 - National Nurses Day

5/10 - Mother's Day

5/10-5/16 - National Women’s Health Week

5/17 - World Hypertension Day

5/25 - Memorial Day