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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke is a stop in bloodflow to the brain, usually by a blood clot. Brain cells in the vicinity of the blockage begin to die because they stop getting oxygen and nutrients from the blood. Approximately 87 percent of strokes are ischemic.




Stroke remains a leading cause of death in the United States. More than 700,000 strokes occur every year.

Who is at Risk?

Almost three-quarters of strokes occur in people over the age of 65 years. The risk of having a stroke doubles each decade after the age of 55 years.

Compared with other groups of people, African Americans face a greater risk of stroke, even at younger ages.

Smokers have double the risk of stroke than nonsmokers do. If you are a smoker, you should know that quitting smoking will greatly reduce your risk of stroke. Northwestern’s Smoking Cessation Program can help. Consider contacting:

Northwestern Memorial’s Smoking Cessation Program at nmh.org/stopsmokingnow.

Northwestern Memorial’s Health Learning Centers at nmh.org/nm/hlc or 312-926-5465.

Know the Symptoms

Sudden onset of symptoms, such as:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face or extremities
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one eye, or in both
  • Difficulty walking, maintaining balance
  • Severe headache without apparent cause

Contact Us

You can contact the Northwestern Stroke Center at 312-926-5188 or by the external transfer line at 312-926-3321.

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2013