Stroke Frequently Asked Questions

What is stroke?

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die.

There are two types of stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels to the brain. Fatty deposits called plaque can also cause blockages by building up in the blood vessels.

The second type, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. Blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue.

What are the symptoms of stroke?

Major signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness, trouble walking or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

What should you do if you think someone is having a stroke?

If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Why do you need to act fast?

Getting fast medical treatment lowers your risk of disability or even death. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms—and to get help right away. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you notice signs of a stroke. Note the time symptoms first started occurring. Certain clot-busting medications can be used within three hours of the onset of symptoms.

What are the risk factors for stroke?

Several conditions and certain lifestyle choices can put people at higher risk for stroke. The most important risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease or atrial fibrillation
  • Diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Prior stroke

Everyone can take steps to lower the risk for stroke. Click here to complete your stroke risk scorecard.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

You can take several steps to reduce your risk for stroke:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be physically active
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Prevent or treat high cholesterol
  • Prevent or treat high blood pressure
  • Prevent or treat diabetes

Talk with your doctor about the best ways to lower your risk for stroke.

Do victims of a stroke ever return to normal after suffering a stroke?

The extent of recovery varies. A stroke kills brain cells. The extent of the brain damage and the size of the stroke are directly related to the extent of the impairments. People who suffer a minor stroke may have only slight impairments, such as a weak arm or leg. A massive stroke, however, can cause a person to lose the ability to read, write or speak. It also can cause paralysis. Fortunately, with rehabilitation therapy, about 25 percent of victims recover with slight impairments and an additional 10 percent recover almost completely.

*Information provided by the National Stroke Association.