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Stroke is a 'Brain Attack'

Stroke is often called a "brain attack" because it affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke happens when an artery that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs and starts to die.

Common Types of Stroke

Ischemic stroke

About 80 percent of all strokes are caused by a severe blockage of blood to part of the brain. Most commonly, blood flow through an artery is blocked by atherosclerosis (narrowed arteries).

Hemorrhagic stroke

Occurs when arteries break, causing bleeding into or around the brain.

Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Time lost is brain lost.

Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in Washington and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in Washington and the nation.

Learning the signs of stroke and calling 9-1-1 for help can prevent disability and death from stroke.

Calling 911 initiates our state’s emergency response system so the best possible treatment options are available.

Common signs of a stroke

All of the major symptoms of stroke appear suddenly and need to be taken seriously.


The most common symptoms of stroke can be remembered by the acronym F.A.S.T.:

  • F = Face: Is one side drooping down?
  • A = Arm: Can the person raise both arms, or is one arm weak?
  • S = Speech: Is speech slurred or confusing?
  • T = Time: Time is critical, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Other symptoms of stroke include:

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

Call 911, Time Lost is Brain Lost

Even one of these signs may mean you or someone else is having a stroke.

If you or someone you are with have any one of these symptoms, it's important to act F.A.S.T. and call 911 right away. Treatments can be given in an ambulance or shortly after arriving at a hospital that can stop a stroke by quickly dissolving a blood clot in an ischemic stroke, or stopping the bleeding of a hemorrhagic stroke.

There is a short period of time after the symptoms start, when serious damage can be prevented. Rehabilitation after a stroke helps people overcome disabilities that result from damage to the brain.

Risk Factors for Stroke

Your stroke risk

There are some conditions that increase your chances of a stroke. Some risks can be changed and others cannot. The more risks you have, the greater your chance of a stroke.

Risks you can't change

  • Age
  • Male (although heart disease is the second leading cause of death in women)
  • Family history of cardiovascular disease
  • African American, American Indian, or Alaskan Native
  • Have already had a stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), or heart attack
  • Have diabetes*

Risks you can change

Risks that can be treated or controlled

  • Artery disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Sickle cell disease

*If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk by working with your healthcare provider to manage other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

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