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A stroke happens about every 40 seconds. Each year, about 795,000 Americans have a stroke. Do you know the warning signs?

If you do have stroke warning signs, this means your brain isn't getting the blood it needs. Damage may be temporary or permanent. For example, you might lose the ability to speak, but recover it with time. You might have partial or complete weakness, for example, in the use of an arm or leg.

The important thing is what you do if stroke symptoms happen. The sooner the treatment, the less chance of serious damage to the brain. And this means less chance of permanent disability.

Stroke Warning Signs

Sometimes symptoms of stroke develop gradually. But if you are having a stroke, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs like these:

  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
  • Confusion or trouble understanding other people
  • Trouble speaking
  • Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking or staying balanced or coordinated
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache that comes on for no known reason

Types of Strokes

Stroke symptoms may differ, depending upon the type of stroke, where it occurs in the brain, and how severe it is. A less severe stroke may be more difficult to recognize.

An ischemic stroke happens when a vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked. It can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, fatty deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) can cause blood clots to form. Sometimes a blood clot forms in the heart from an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. It then travels to a place where it blocks an artery supplying the brain.

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. This can also happen for a variety of reasons.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a "mini stroke" from a temporary blockage. Although a TIA doesn't cause permanent brain damage, it may cause stroke warning signs, which may last minutes or even hours. Think of this as a warning sign you shouldn't ignore.

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