Information for Patients

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped or blocked. Brain cells start to die within few minutes of a stroke, making early stroke detection critically important. Problems related to a stroke may include weakness in an arm of leg, paralysis and loss of speech, dependent on the level and severity of the stroke. Immediate attention is important for someone having a stroke. The American Heart Association says stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and can lead to long term disability.

Stroke Types and Symptoms

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, is when a blood clot blocks the blood flow in a vessel of the brain.
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain.
Common stroke symptoms include:


  • Severe headache without a known reason
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech. Speech may be garbled.
  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm of leg on the same side of the body
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance and loss of coordination

Early Detection of Stroke

Early stroke detection is critical in maximizing the chances of successful stroke recovery. The sooner you recognize stroke symptoms and call 911, the higher the likelihood that one can live independently after a stroke.

Brain cells start starving for oxygen as soon as the blood supply ceases during a stroke, giving you limited time to help the brain through medications and surgeries that can restore blood supply. It is especially important to know the signs of a stroke to quickly recognize them in yourself or others, allowing you to act promptly.

Use the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T. to remember the signs of a stroke:

B – Balance: Watch for sudden loss of balance
E – Eyes: Check for vision loss
F – Face: Look for an uneven smile
A – Arm: Check if one arm is weak
S – Speech: Listen for slurred speech
T – Time: Call 9-1-1 right away