Home > Know Your Heart > Stroke Signs & Warnings

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 3 cause of death and a leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so it starts to die.

Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain (called an ischemic stroke), or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). A TIA (transient ischemic attack), or “mini stroke”, is caused by a temporary clot.

It’s very important to take immediate action at the first sign of stroke. Call 9-1-1 immediately so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you.

F: Face - Have the person smile.  Does one side of the face droop?
A: Arms - Have the person hold out their arms – does one drift down?
S: Speech – does the person have difficulty repeating a simple phrase?
T: Time - If any of these apply, time is crucial – call 911.

Source: American Stroke Association and National Stroke Association


Warning Signs

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body confusion

  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding trouble-seeing
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes dizziness
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination headache
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause