Understanding Strokes

Time to Read: About 1 minute

This information explains what a stroke is and what to do if you or someone you are with is having a stroke.

About Strokes

A stroke is when blood stops going to part of your brain. This can happen if a blood vessel that sends blood to your brain is blocked or leaking. When your brain does not get enough blood, it stops working as it should.

The longer your brain does not get enough blood, the more likely it will affect your body. When strokes are not treated right away, they can cause long term disability or death.

Call 911 right away if you think you are having a stroke.

This is why it’s important that you, your family, and your friends know the signs of a stroke and what to do to get help. Even if you are not sure it’s a stroke, call 911 right away. Acting fast can prevent brain damage and save your life.

Strokes and cancer

People with cancer are at a higher risk of having a stroke than people without cancer.

Sometimes people with cancer may confuse signs of a stroke with treatment side effects. Do not wait to see if your symptoms get better with time. If you have any signs of a stroke, call 911 right away.

Visit www.stroke.org for more information about what increases your risk of having a stroke.

Signs of a Stroke

If you or someone you are with are showing any of the following signs of a stroke, call 911 right away:

  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg. You may have sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of your body. For example, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
  • Trouble speaking or understanding. You may feel confused, slur your words, or have trouble understanding what people are saying to you.
  • Problems seeing through one or both eyes. You may have blurry vision or have trouble seeing at all.
  • Trouble walking. You may stumble, lose your balance, or feel dizzy.
  • A headache. You may get a sudden, very bad headache.

‌ If you think you are having a stroke, call 911 right away. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) can start treating you on the way to your closest emergency room.


Use the letters in F.A.S.T to remember how to know if someone is having a stroke.

F Face Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop? Is the person’s smile uneven? Is their face numb?
A Arm Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm move downward? Is one arm weak or numb?
S Speech Ask the person to say something. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T Time Time to call 911. If they have any signs of a stroke, call 911 right away. Getting help right away can prevent brain damage or death.

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Last Updated

Wednesday, March 16, 2022