To protect yourself and your loved ones from the serious effects of stroke, you should:
- Learn your risk factors.
- Reduce your risk factors.
- Learn the warning signs of stroke.
- Know what to do if you notice warning signs.
You and your family should learn the warning signs of stroke that are listed below.
You may have some or all of them:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
How does stroke happen?
A stroke happens when a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked (ischemic stroke) or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Then that part of the brain can’t work, and neither can the part of the body it controls.
TIAs, or transient ischemic attacks, are “warning strokes” that can happen before a major stroke. They happen when a blood clot clogs an artery for a short time. The signs of a TIA are like a stroke, but they usually last only a few minutes. If you have any of these signs, get to a hospital right away!
Uncontrolled high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking and heart disease put you at a higher risk for stroke.
What should I do if I suspect a stroke?
Call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) in your area (fire department or ambulance) immediately. It's important to get to a hospital right away. Also, check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared. It's very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
How can I help prevent stroke?
You could save your life or save yourself from being disabled by stroke if you do these things:
- Don’t smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Treat high blood pressure, if you have it.
- Eat a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and salt.
- Be physically active.
- Keep your weight under control.
- Follow your doctor’s orders for taking medicine.
- Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
- Get regular medical check-ups.
How can I learn more?
- Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family also may be at higher risk. It’s very important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
- Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit heart.org to learn more about heart disease.
- For information on stroke, call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) or visit us online at StrokeAssociation.org.
Knowledge is power, so Learn and Live!
Do you have questions or comments for your doctor or nurse?
Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider. For example:
How would I recover from stroke?
How is stroke different from heart attack?
©2012, American Heart Association