A stroke may result from a thrombosis, an embolism, or a hemorrhage. Cerebral thrombosis may be due to atherosclerosis, when blood vessels are narrowed by fatty deposits. In an embolism, a small blood clot breaks off an artery wall somewhere in the body and lodges in an artery supplying the brain. A hemorrhage occurs when blood leaks out of a weak-walled artery in the brain. Other causes of stroke include atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), damaged heart valves, or a heart attack. All three may lead to the formation of clots in the heart. These may travel to the brain, causing an embolism. Strokes are more common in those with diabetes, smokers, women on oral contraceptives, and people with high cholesterol levels.

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