The aim of this review is to present the current knowledge regarding stroke. It will appear in three parts (in part II the pathogenesis, investigations, and prognosis will be presented, while part III will consist of the management and rehabilitation). In the current part (I) the definitions of the clinical picture are presented. These include: amaurosis fugax, vertebrobasilar transient ischemic attack, and stroke (with good recovery, in evolution and complete). The role of the following risk factors is discussed in detail: age, gender, ethnicity, heredity, hypertension, cigarette smoking, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, obesity, fibrinogen and clotting factors, oral contraceptives, erythrocytosis and hematocrit level, prior cerebrovascular and other diseases, physical inactivity, diet and alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, and genetic predisposition. In particular, regarding the carotid arteries, the following characteristics are analyzed: atheroma, carotid plaque echomorphology, carotid stenosis, presence of ulcer, local variations in surface deformability, pathological characteristics, and dissection. Finally the significance of the cerebral collateral circulation and the conditions predisposing to cardioembolism and to cerebral hemorrhage are presented.