Warning signs of a stroke
Seconds matter. Understand stroke, know the symptoms and take steps to reduce your risk of having a stroke.
What Is A Stroke?
A stroke can happen when the blood flow to your brain is interrupted. The brain needs a nearly constant supply of blood to carry oxygen to the brain cells.
- Most strokes are “ischemic strokes,” meaning there is a blockage in an artery caused by blood clots or the gradual build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits.
- Less frequent strokes are “hemorrhagic strokes,” in which a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing bleeding into the brain. These brain hemorrhages are often the result of a burst aneurysm, caused by a weak area in a blood vessel.
- Some people experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “warning stroke” because they mean there is something abnormal in the brain and you are at an increased risk for experiencing a stroke that could cause permanent damage.
Act FAST: The Warning Signs of a Stroke
Stroke is a medical emergency. Knowing the warning signs can save you or a loved one's life. The earlier you get treatment for stroke, the more effective it is. Call 911 if you notice any of these symptoms, even if they disappear.
- F – Face. Sudden facial droop, uneven smile.
- A – Arms. Sudden onset of arm/leg numbness, weakness.
- S – Speech. Sudden onset slurred speech, difficulty understanding.
- T – Time. Seconds matter. Call 911 or get to the nearest hospital.
If you’ve had a transient ischemic attack (or warning stroke), your doctor can diagnose and treat you to help reduce your risk of having a stroke. If you’ve had a stroke, rapid medical attention can help reduce brain damage and disability.
A Mini Stroke Is a Medical Emergency
Sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” a transient ischemic attack (TIA) is considered a warning stroke and requires immediate medical attention. A TIA happens when the brain loses blood flow for a short time. Generally, TIAs last just a few minutes and don’t cause permanent brain damage.
But after you’ve had a TIA, you are at significant risk of having another stroke. Fast, expert treatment can reduce your risk.
TIAs begin suddenly and are over quickly. They can last from a few minutes to as long as a few hours. The longer they last, the less likely they are to resolve on their own. Signs of a TIA include:
- Dizziness or trouble walking
- Sudden “thunderclap” headaches
- Speech problems
- Vision problems – temporary loss of vision in one eye
- Weakness in your arms or legs
Emergency care is available at Aurora BayCare, the region’s first and only Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center. Our expert stroke team is available 24/7 to help.
Stroke Risk Factors & Prevention
Everyone is at risk for a stroke. However, certain factors can increase your risk. Some of these are beyond your control, such as:
- Age - Stroke risk increases with age, especially over 55 years
- Gender - Males are more likely to suffer a stroke
- Ethnicity - Stroke risk is higher in African-Americans
- Stroke history - Previous occurrences of a stroke or transient ischemic attack leave people at a higher risk for a repeat occurrence
The American Stroke Association estimates that more than 80% of all strokes are preventable. Lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk. Here’s what you can do:
- Quit smoking - Smokers have a higher risk of stroke
- Lose weight - Being overweight contributes to many health problems and increases the risk of stroke. Try our BMI calculator to determine if you are at a healthy weight.
- Manage cholesterol - Enjoy a heart-healthy diet and regular physical activity. Your doctor may also prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication
- Manage high blood pressure - Reducing your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 10 points can reduce your risk of stroke by 1/3
- Manage your diabetes - Diabetes affects all the blood vessels in the body and can increase the risk of stroke
- Talk to your doctor about atrial fibrillation - Treatments for "a-fib" can reduce the likelihood of a blood clot forming that can cause a stroke
Visit our Real People, Real Stories in Neuroscience page to hear stories from people in your community that were treated by Aurora BayCare’s NeuroCare Brain and Spine Center and have survived a stroke or another cerebrovascular disease.
Dr. Napier shares what you can do to prevent a stroke
Comprehensive Stroke Center
Aurora BayCare is the first and only hospital in Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to be awarded Comprehensive Stroke Center certification. Comprehensive stroke centers are typically the largest and best-equipped hospitals in a region, prepared to treat any kind of stroke or stroke complication.
A stroke is a medical emergency. New interventions may reverse or reduce the effects of a stroke, if provided early enough. Our skilled staff is ready 24/7 to treat stroke emergencies.