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Warning Signs of a "Sudden" Stroke Everyone Should Know

Never ignore these symptoms of stroke.

According to the CDC someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds, so knowing the signs and symptoms is crucial. "A heart attack is a heart attack, and a brain attack is a stroke," says Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of clinical cardiology and cardiovascular prevention at National Jewish Health. It is "usually a sudden decrease in blood flow to the brain." Here are five sure signs of stroke, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Typical Signs of a Stroke

Tired mature woman take off glasses suffering from headache

Here are the typical signs of a normal stroke for both men and women, according to the CDC:

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


Who Is Most At Risk For Stroke?

Senior man suffering heart attack while jogging with wife.

Arteries tend to get more narrow and hard as people get older, raising the risk of stroke. There are also lifestyle factors such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, and not exercising that increase the risk of stroke, and some ethnic groups are also at higher risk. "Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the single most important risk factor for stroke," says the Cleveland Clinic. "A blood pressure of 140/90 or above in adults is considered to be high. The usual target for blood pressure treatment in adults is to keep the blood pressure at 120/80 or below."


Strokes Also Happen To Young People

20-or 30-something man in gray blazer and jeans looking depressed outdoors
Shutterstock / pathdoc

10-15% of strokes happen to people under 50—so it's never too early to be proactive. "You don't think about disease when you are young," says neurologist and stroke expert Dr. Vladimir Hachinski. "If you're going off to college or leaving home, your habits will change at this time. You begin eating on your own. This is a good time to think about how to prevent disease."


Transient Ischemic Attacks (or "Warning Strokes")

Female middle aged doctor discussing with her senior stroke patient ct-scan images of her brain

Studies show that signs of ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke) can appear up to a week before an actual stroke. These strokes—known as transient ischemic attacks (TRIs) are known as "warning strokes" and show symptoms similar to real strokes, but last less than five minutes and don't result in injury to the brain. "We have known for some time that TIAs are often a precursor to a major stroke," says Peter M. Rothwell, MD, PhD, FRCP, of the Department of Clinical Neurology at Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, England. "What we haven't been able to determine is how urgently patients must be assessed following a TIA in order to receive the most effective preventive treatment. This study indicates that the timing of a TIA is critical, and the most effective treatments should be initiated within hours of a TIA in order to prevent a major attack."


COVID-19 and Stroke

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"While researchers are still studying exactly how COVID-19 affects the brain, the evidence does suggest it could increase stroke risk, says stroke expert Shazam Hussain, MD. "But these strokes caused by blood clots appear to be impacting younger people. It's not a classic situation of stroke. We're actually seeing young people who don't have the traditional risk factors for stroke like high blood pressure, or other problems. These are young, healthy people, who are coming in with big, big strokes. No matter your age or if you have COVID or not, you should never ignore stroke symptoms. That's because while there are very effective therapies for stroke, they are time-limited."


How to Stay Safe Out There

A man in respirator mask at the airport.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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