A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within a few minutes, brain cells begin to die.
Stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment of a stroke is crucial. Early treatment can minimize damage to your brain and potential stroke complications.The good news is that strokes can be treated, and many fewer Americans now die of strokes than was the case 20 or 30 years ago. Improvement in the control of major risk factors for stroke — high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol — is likely responsible for the decline.
Watch for these stroke symptoms if you think you or someone else is having a stroke:
Trouble with walking. If you're having a stroke, you may stumble or have sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
Trouble with speaking. If you're having a stroke, you may slur your speech or may not be able to come up with words to explain what is happening (aphasia). Try to repeat a simple sentence. If you can't, you may be having a stroke.
Paralysis or numbness on one side of the body. If you're having a stroke, you may have sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke.
Trouble with seeing. If you're having a stroke, you may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision or may see double.
Headache. A sudden, severe "bolt out of the blue" headache or an unusual headache, which may be accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between your eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness, sometimes indicates you're having a stroke.
For most people, a stroke gives no warning. But one possible sign of an impending stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a temporary interruption of blood flow to a part of your brain. The signs and symptoms of TIA are the same as for a stroke, but they last for a shorter period — several minutes to 24 hours — and then disappear, without leaving apparent permanent effects. You may have more than one TIA, and the recurrent signs and symptoms may be similar or different.
A TIA may indicate that you're at risk of a full-blown stroke. People who have had a TIA are much more likely to have a stroke than are those who haven't had a TIA.
When To See A Doctor
If you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke or TIA, get medical help right away. A TIA may seem like a passing event. But it's an important warning sign — and a chance to take steps that may prevent a stroke.
If someone appears to be having a stroke, watch the person carefully while waiting for an ambulance. You may need to take additional actions in the following situations:
If the person stops breathing, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
If vomiting occurs, turn the person's head to the side. This can prevent choking.
Don't let the person eat or drink anything.
Every minute counts when it comes to treating a stroke or TIA. In fact, sometimes a stroke is referred to as a "brain attack" to convey that, similar to a heart attack, quick care is important. So, don't wait to see if the signs and symptoms go away. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the damage and potential disability. The success of most stroke treatments depends on how soon a person is seen by a doctor in a hospital emergency room after signs and symptoms begin.