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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Overview of stroke

Mō te roro ikura

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A stroke happens when you have a bleed or a blood clot blocking the blood supply to part of your brain. This causes damage to brain tissue that might have long-term effects. The effects of a stroke depend on which part of your brain is affected.

Some people develop symptoms similar to a stroke, but fully recover within a few hours. This may be a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also called a mini stroke.

The main risk factors for having a stroke are high blood pressure, having narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis) and the heart rhythm problem atrial fibrillation. Doing a cardiovascular risk assessment can show if you have an increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Symptoms of stroke

The main symptoms of a stroke are known as FAST. These are:

Other less common symptoms of a stroke include:


Call 111 immediately if you or someone close to you suddenly develops any stroke symptoms.

Diagnosing a stroke

To diagnose a stroke, a doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you.

If they suspect a stroke, they will arrange further tests, such as:

Treating a stroke

Your treatment depends on the type of stroke you've had, including which part of your brain is affected and what caused the stroke.

Emergency treatment is used to reduce the damage to your brain. If a blood clot has caused your stroke, options include a medicine to dissolve the clot (thrombolysis) and a procedure to remove the blood clot from your brain (clot retrieval).

Other treatment may include medication to stop clots forming (antiplatelet medication), medication to control blood pressure, statin medication to lower cholesterol and blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants) if you have atrial fibrillation.

You may need rehabilitation to help recover from the lasting effects of the stroke. You may have help from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and speech-language therapist for this.

Preventing strokes

You cannot control all risk factors, but lifestyle changes can help you lower some risks. This means:

See your general practice team to get checked for other conditions that affect your risk of stroke such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol and diabetes. If you have any of these conditions, keep them under control.

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On the next page: Self-care after a stroke

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2022.


See also:

Advance care planning

Page reference: 503098

Review key: HISTK-21790