What is stroke? | My Stroke Guide

 What is stroke?
  • A stroke is a brain attack. It happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, killing brain cells.
  • Damage to the brain can affect how your body works, and how you think and feel.
  • A stroke can happen to anyone at any age, even babies and children. 
  • A stroke can be due to a blockage or a bleed in the brain.
 Common signs of stroke

The FAST test can help you spot the three most common symptoms of a stroke.

  • F: Face: can they smile, has their face drooped on one side?

  • A: Arms: can the person raise both arms and keep them there?

  • S: Speech: is their speech slurred? Can they understand what you say?

  • T: Time: if the answer is yes to any of the above, dial 999 straight away.

Other signs of stroke

  • Sudden weakness or numbness down one side of the body.
  • Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences.
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion.
  • A sudden, severe headache can also be a sign of stroke.



 How can a stroke affect you?

The effects of stroke depend on:

  • Where the stroke is in your brain.
  • How much the stroke has damaged your brain.
  • The fastest recovery takes place in the first few months, but people can continue to improve for months or years.
  • Recovery is different for everyone. 
  • Rehabilitation can help you to make the best recovery possible.

Effects of stroke

  • Having a stroke often causes mobility and balance difficulties.
  • Emotional effects such as depression and anxiety are common after stroke.
  • A stroke can affect swallowing and bladder control.
  • A stroke can affect your relationships and sex life.
  • A stroke can cause problems with speaking, understanding, memory and concentration.



 Haemorrhagic stroke

A haemorrhagic stroke can be called a brain haemorrhage or a bleed

  • It is due to:

    • bleeding within the brain, or
    • bleeding on the surface of the brain
  • In the UK, around 15% of strokes are haemorrhagic.
  • High blood pressure is a big risk factor.

More Information

  • An aneurysm is a weak spot on an artery wall that has ballooned out. This can burst, causing a bleed in the brain.
  • It tends to affect people at a younger age than ischaemic stroke (a stroke due to a clot).
  • Blood thinning medications cause a slightly higher risk of bleeding in the brain.
  • Surgery is sometimes used to stop bleeding or relieve pressure caused by fluid building up around your brain.
 Ischaemic stroke

  • An ischaemic stroke is due to a blocked blood vessel in the brain.
  • It is sometimes called a clot.

Emergency stroke treatments need to be given within a few hours of a stroke.

More Information

  • About 85% of all strokes in the UK are ischaemic.
  • It can be due to a build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries. Heart problems can make ischaemic stroke more likely.
  • A brain scan can show what kind of stroke you have and where it is in the brain.
  • Blood thinning medications can reduce the risk of another clot forming.


 Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • A transient ischaemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke) is the same as a stroke, except the symptoms last for a short amount of time.
  • It is caused by a blockage cutting off the blood supply to part of your brain.
  • A TIA is a major warning sign of a stroke.    
  • 1 in 12 people who have a TIA go on to have a stroke within a week.
  • When stroke symptoms start, there is no way of knowing how long they will last. Don’t wait, call 999 straight away.

More Information

  • After a TIA, you should have treatment for health conditions like high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and diabetes.
  • Stopping smoking reduces your risk of a stroke.
  • Staying active and eating healthily helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Take steps to reduce your cholesterol if it's high.