Would You Know If You Had a Stroke?

A stroke is sometimes referred to as a "brain attack" because stroke occurs when either blood flow to the brain is cut off due to a clot blocking an artery or by a rupture in an artery. When that happens, brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they're not getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. And while we tend to think of a stroke as being a violent and painful event that would be obvious to anyone witnessing it, it's possible to have a stroke and not know it.

According to Ted Lowenkopf, M.D., medical director of the Providence Stroke Center in Portland, Oregon, the effects of a stroke can be undetectable if the stroke is small or if the brain tissue damaged isn't critical to certain functions. It's also possible to experience the symptoms of a mild stroke while asleep, which might not be strong enough to wake you. However, once awake it would be obvious to you that something is wrong. Depending on the severity of the stroke and the area of the brain affected, you might experience weakness in the arms or legs, have double or complete loss of vision, slurred speech, dizziness or an unsteady gait.

Get Immediate Help

If you suspect that you or someone you know might have had a stroke, getting help fast is critical. Call 911 immediately. With new treatments now available, it's possible to reduce the debilitating damage caused by a stroke if the patient arrives at the hospital within 60 minutes after symptoms start to present themselves.

Know Stroke Symptoms

There are two kinds of stroke. The most common type is called ischemic stroke and is caused by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The other kind of stroke is called hemorrhagic stroke and occurs when a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain. Below are some signs of stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Although these symptoms could also be signs of other conditions, if you experience any of them, you should immediately dial 911.