Emergency & First Aid  »  Emergency Conditions / First Aid

A stroke is also called a “brain attack.” With a stroke, brain cells die due to a blood clot or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. The end result is brain damage (and possible death). In the U.S., strokes are the 3rd leading cause of death. They are the leading cause of adult disability.

Stroke Warning Signs

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.

  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.

  3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause.


Most strokes are caused by a blood clot in an artery in the neck or brain. Some are caused by bleeding into or around the brain.

Risk Factors for a Stroke

  1. Transient ischemic attack (TIA). This is a temporary lack of blood supply to the brain. With a TIA, stroke symptoms can appear for a short term and then go away. A TIA is a warning that a stroke may follow.

  2. Atrial fibrillation. This is an irregular beating of the heart.

  3. High blood pressure. Cigarette smoking. Diabetes. Heart disease.


Self-Care / First Aid

First Aid before Emergency Care

  1. Note the time when the first sign(s) of stroke occurred. Report this time to emergency personnel. For the most common type of strokes, a clot-busting drug should to be given within 3 hours of the start of symptoms.

  2. Do not give the person anything to eat or drink. Do not give aspirin.

Questions to Ask

Does any stroke warning sign occur? {Note: Call 9-1-1 without delay! Then, follow first aid listed below.}

In the past, have stroke warning signs occurred briefly and then gone away?

  1. Take medicine(s), as prescribed, to control blood pressure, blood cholesterol, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation. Aspirin may help reduce the risk of stroke in women ages 55-79 years. Discuss this with your doctor.

  2. Get to and stay at a healthy weight. Get regular exercise.

  3. Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit. Use alcohol in moderation. Manage stress.


American Stroke Association

888.4.STROKE (478.7653)