Signs of Stroke

Understanding the symptoms to prevent & treat stroke

Your brain is the control center for your whole body. It lets you see, hear, taste, smell, feel, think, and move around. Each area has special tasks to do, and some areas work together to get their jobs done.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood to every part of your body. Blood carries oxygen to brain cells through arteries in and around the brain. Oxygen keeps the brain alive and working well.

When the brain's blood flow stops or leaks into the wrong place, brain cells in that area die. This is called a stroke. Brain cells that die will not recover (permanent brain damage). Other brain cells are in shock and will start working again after a while. No one can tell just how long it will take for these cells to begin working again. Most of the healing happens within the first year, but generally improves over time. Also, people may learn new skills to replace the ones they've lost.

Types of stroke

Your stroke may be either a "blocking" stroke or a "bleeding" stroke. types of strokes diagram

A blocking stroke – or an ischemic stroke – iscaused when a blood clot or plaque blocks blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. This blockage stops the brain from getting the oxygen is needs.

There are two kinds of ischemic stroke:

  • Embolism – Sometimes the heart or blood vessels in the neck release a blood clot that travels through arteries. Clots can float through big arteries with no problem. If a clot tries to pass through small arteries in the brain, it gets stuck and blocks the flow of blood. This type of stroke is called a cerebral embolism.
  • Thrombosis – Another type of stroke happens when a brain artery clogs up. Fatty buildup (plaque) collects inside an artery wall. As blood flows through the artery, it sticks to the plaque’s rough edges and builds up a clot. Over time, this can build a dam in the artery that stops blood flow. Brain cells on the other side can’t get oxygen and die.

A bleeding stroke – or a hemorrhagic stroke – is caused when a blood vessel in your brain bursts or leaks. Blood spills out and damages the brain cells near the injured blood vessel. The broken vessel no longer carries blood, and further brain damage results. Sometimes, this is caused by a ‘bubble’ that bursts in a blood vessel, called an aneurysm. Hemorrhagic stroke may also be caused by high blood pressure.

Signs & symptoms of stroke

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke so that you are prepared in the event that you or a loved one experiences a stroke.

Some signs of stroke include: BEFAST stroke signs

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, leg (or some combination) especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, slurred speech, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden difficulty swallowing/sudden drooling

If you have any of these symptoms or see someone else having them, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Preventing stroke

There are several factors that contribute to one’s likelihood of experiencing stroke. Some of these risk factors are uncontrollable, such as age, gender, race, and family history. However, many factors are controllable parts of an individual’s lifestyle. High blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, stress, drug or alcohol use, and poor diet are all controllable risk factors. Making simple lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your risk of stroke.