Stroke Signs, Symptoms and Risk Factors

What is Stroke?

To understand a stroke, think of it as a heart attack that happens in the brain. A stroke (or brain attack) is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when a blood clot, or ruptured blood vessel, interferes with blood flow to the brain. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so it starts to die.

There are 2 main types of stroke:

  • Ischemic: when there is a blockage in the brain artery. (this is the most common type)
  • Hemorrhagic: when the brain artery bursts and blood leaks into or around the brain tissue

a diagram of ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes

Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. It is the Number One cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in adults. Depending on the type, extent and location of the damage – as well as how quickly emergency care is given – a stroke can result in death or may permanently impair a person’s ability to move, speak, think, remember, respond normally or live independently.

Warning Signs of Stroke

  • Sudden change in vision – blurred or loss of vision
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty of speech – slurred or sluggish, loss of words or difficulty understanding words
  • Sudden weakness – loss of strength in face, hand, arm and/or leg on one side of the body
  • Sudden loss of balance or dizziness – difficulty walking or clumsiness
  • Sudden change in sensation – heaviness, numbness or unusual sensation in face, hand, arm and/or leg on one side of the body
  • Sudden severe headache, unexplained, often described as the worst headache ever

Even if the symptoms only last a few minutes, it could be a mini-stroke, which is called a TIA (transient ischemic attack). TIA is also a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. An unrecognized and untreated TIA may be followed by a major disabling stroke. Therefore, if any of the above symptoms occur, it is critical to seek immediate emergency treatment.

Another quick way to identify a stroke is to follow the BE FAST signs:

be fast stroke acronym

BALANCE – Sudden loss of balance or dizziness

EYES – Sudden blurred vision or loss of vision

FACE – Sudden facial droop or uneven smile

ARM – Sudden arm weakness or numbness

SPEECH – Sudden slurred speech; sudden difficulty speaking or understanding​

TIME – Time to Call 911 and get to a stroke certified hospital immediately

Hoag Hospital Newport Beach was certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by DNV GL Healthcare USA, Inc. in October 2016.


Stroke Risk Factors & Stroke Prevention


Prevent Stroke Chart

Stroke Risk Assessment

In the United States, stroke is the number five cause of death and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. Our assessment estimates your 10-year risk of having a stroke and provides personal feedback on managing controllable risk factors.

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