Stroke Symptoms

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Common stroke symptoms seen in both men and women:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of 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

Women may report unique stroke symptoms:

  • sudden face and limb pain
  • sudden hiccups
  • sudden nausea
  • sudden general weakness
  • sudden chest pain
  • sudden shortness of breath
  • sudden palpitations

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any of these symptoms

Every minute counts for stroke patients and acting F.A.S.T. can lead patients to the stroke treatments they desperately need.  The most effective stroke treatments are only available if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within the first three hours of the first symptoms. Actually, many Americans are not aware that stroke patients may not be eligible for stroke treatments if they arrive at the hospital after the three-hour window.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test:

F—FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A—ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S—SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

T—TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

NOTE THE TIME WHEN ANY SYMPTOMS FIRST APPEAR. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA-approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Stroke Causes

The major treatable risk factors for cerebrovascular atherosclerotic disease and stroke (CVA) are similar to those for CAD.

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol levels)

The risk is particularly increased in patients with two or more of these risk factors.Control of risk factors for CAD also reduces the risk of stroke.


The risk of both stroke and coronary disease increase as the blood pressure rises above 110/75. Reducing the blood pressure in hypertensive patients, even those with mild hypertension, lowers the risk of stroke. The target blood pressure in this setting is not well defined, and should be individualized.A goal of <130/80 mmHg seems reasonable for most patients.

Transient Ischemic Attack

A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA, or mini stroke) causes symptoms similar to a stroke, but with a TIA, the symptoms go completely within 24 hours (with a stroke, the symptoms are usually more permanent).


The most common cause is a tiny blood clot in a blood vessel in the brain. 

In most cases, a TIA is caused by a tiny blood clot that becomes stuck in a small blood vessel (artery) in the brain. This blocks the blood flow, and a part of the brain is starved of oxygen. The affected part of the brain is without oxygen for just a few minutes, and soon recovers. This is because the blood clot either dissolves quickly, or nearby blood vessels are able to compensate.

This diagram shows the main arteries of the brain and a TIA blood clot:

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