Understanding the severity of stroke

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.

What are the types of stroke?

Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). A TIA (transient ischemic attack), or “mini stroke”, is caused by a temporary clot.

What are the effects of stroke?

The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions. If a stroke occurs and blood flow can’t reach the region that controls a particular body function, that part of the body won’t work as it should.

What are stroke symptoms?

Use the letters in “fast” to spot stroke signs and know when to call 9-1-1.

  • Face Drooping
    • Does one side of the face droop or is numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven?
  • Arm Weakness
    • Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty
    • Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Is the person able to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue”?
  • Time to Call 9-1-1
    • If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and say, “I think this is a stroke” to help get the person to the hospital immediately. Time is important! Don’t delay, and also note the time when the first symptoms appeared. Emergency responders will want to know.

Sometimes other symptoms appear separately, in combination, or with F.A.S.T. signs:
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg. Especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

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

Dial 911 for an ambulance IMMEDIATELY and say you think someone is having a stroke. Spot a stroke, act F.A.S.T.!

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Works Cited:
About Stroke, American Stroke Association:
Warning Signs, American Stroke Association: