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A stroke

happens when blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted. This can cause serious brain damage from a lack of oxygen. Brain function may be affected depending on where the stroke happens. A stroke caused by a blood clot is called an ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke is the most common type. A stroke caused by a burst or torn blood vessel is called a hemorrhagic stroke. When stroke symptoms go away completely within minutes to hours and do not cause damage, it is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a warning sign that you are at risk of soon having a stroke.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have unusual or excessive bleeding.
  • Your blood sugar or blood pressure is unusually high or low.
  • You have trouble swallowing.
  • You fall.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have trouble having a bowel movement or urinating.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Warning signs of a stroke:

The word F.A.S.T. can help you remember and recognize warning signs of a stroke.

  • F = Face: One side of the face droops.
  • A = Arms: One arm starts to drop when both arms are raised.
  • S = Speech: Speech is slurred or sounds different than usual.
  • T = Time: A person who is having a stroke needs to be seen immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. Most medicines and treatments work best the sooner they are given.

Common signs and symptoms of a stroke:

The signs and symptoms will depend on the type of stroke and where it occurred:

  • Sudden weakness in your arm, leg, or face
  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Trouble speaking or understanding words you read or hear
  • Vision changes
  • Sudden inability to feel part of your body or limbs
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting or a severe headache

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to come in for regular tests of your brain function. If you are taking warfarin, you will need to come in for regular blood tests. Your INR levels will also need to be checked. These tests help make sure you are taking the right amount of warfarin. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


depends on the type of stroke you had.

  • Medicines may be given to prevent blood clots, break up clots, or help your blood clot more easily. You may need medicines to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
  • Thrombolysis is a procedure used to break apart clots in an artery. A catheter is guided into the artery until it is near the clot. Medicine is put through the catheter that will help break apart the clot. Or, the clot is pulled out of the artery.
  • Surgery may be used to remove a blood clot or to relieve pressure within your brain. You may also need surgery to remove plaque buildup from your carotid arteries.

Go to rehabilitation (rehab) as directed:

Rehab is an important part of treatment. A speech therapist helps you relearn or improve your ability to talk and swallow. You may start slowly and start doing more difficult tasks over time. Physical therapists can help you gain strength and build endurance. Occupational therapists teach you new ways to do daily activities, such as getting dressed. Therapy can help you improve your ability to walk or keep your balance. Your therapy may include tasks or movements you will need to do for everyday activities. An example is being able to raise or lower yourself from a chair.

Care for yourself after a stroke:

  • Make your home safe. Remove anything you might trip over. Tape electrical cords down. Keep paths clear throughout your home. Make sure your home is well lighted. Put nonslip materials on surfaces that might be slippery. An example is your bathtub or shower floor.
  • Use assistive devices. A cane or walker may help you keep your balance as you walk.

Prevent another stroke:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase your risk for another stroke and cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol in large amounts. Talk to your healthcare provider about alcohol. You will have to limit the amount you drink. Heavy alcohol use or drinking binges increase your risk for any type of stroke. Alcohol may also increase your blood pressure or thin your blood. Blood thinning can increase your risk for hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Check your blood pressure as directed. High blood pressure can increase your risk for a stroke. If you have high blood pressure, follow your healthcare provider's directions for controlling your blood pressure.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Eat foods that are high in potassium, such as potatoes and bananas.
  • Manage health conditions. Conditions such as atrial fibrillation and diabetes can increase your risk for a stroke. Control your glucose carefully if you have hyperglycemia or diabetes.
  • Exercise as directed. Activity is important for preventing another stroke. You may need to work with an exercise therapist to learn how to exercise safely. Exercise may help you be able to do your normal activities more easily. Exercise also helps control your blood pressure and weight.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Manage stress. Stress can increase your blood pressure. Find new ways to relax, such as deep breathing or listening to music.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.