Patients and Caregivers

While stroke is one of our country’s leading causes of death and serious, long-term disability in adults, the good news is that treatments are available that can greatly reduce the damage. However, you need to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and get the stroke victim, which could be you, to a hospital quickly. Getting treatment within 60 minutes can prevent disability.


About Stroke

There are more than 800,000 strokes each year in our nation. Sometimes called a “brain attack,” a stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. When this happens, brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function.

What causes a stroke?

There are two major kinds of stroke. About 80 percent are ischemic strokes, which are caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel or artery in the brain. About 20 percent are hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by a blood vessel in the brain that breaks and bleeds into the brain.

What disabilities can result from a stroke?

Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire body. The effects of a stroke range from mild to severe and can include paralysis, problems with thinking, problems with speaking, and emotional problems. Patients may also experience pain or numbness.


Know the Signs

Because stroke injures the brain, victims may not realize they’re having one and bystanders may think they just look unaware or confused. That’s why stroke victims have the best chance if someone around them recognizes the signs and acts quickly.

What are the signs of a stroke?

The symptoms are distinct because they happen quickly:

  • Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking, or trouble understanding speech
  • Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes
  • Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause

What should a bystander do?

If you think someone is having a stroke—if they suddenly lose the ability to speak, move an arm or leg on one side, or experience facial paralysis on one side—call 911 immediately.


Act in Time

Stroke is a medical emergency. Every minute counts because the longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage. Immediate treatment can save people’s lives and enhance their chances for successful recovery.

Why is there a need to act fast?

Ischemic strokes, the most common type, can be treated with the drug t-PA, which dissolves blood clots obstructing blood flow to the brain. The window of opportunity to start treatment is three hours, but patients need to get to the hospital within 60 minutes to be evaluated and receive treatment.

What’s the benefit of treatment?

A five-year study by NINDS found that some stroke patients who received t-PA within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms were at least 30 percent more likely to recover with little or no disability after three months.

How can I reduce my risk of stroke?

The best treatment for stroke is prevention. Several factors increase your risk:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity/obesity

If you smoke–quit. If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol, get them under control. If you’re overweight, start a healthy diet and exercise regularly.


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Stroke Health Information

Mind Your Risks®: Information About the Link Between High Blood Pressure, Stroke, and Dementia

NINDS Clinical Trials for Stroke