Stroke and your heart
Your brain needs a constant supply of blood to work
properly. A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of
your brain is cut off, causing your brain cells to become
damaged or die.
The two most common types of stroke are ischaemic and
- Ischaemic strokes happen
when the artery that supplies blood to your brain is blocked, for
example by a blood clot.
- Haemorrhagic strokes happen
when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into
your brain, damaging brain tissue and starving some of your brain
cells of blood and oxygen.
Without a constant blood supply, your brain
cells will be damaged or die, which can affect the way your
body and mind work.
What should I do if I think someone is having a
F.A.S.T to recognise the symptoms.
- Facial weakness - can they
smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
- Arm weakness - can they
raise both arms?
- Speech problems – can they
speak clearly and can they understand what you are saying?
- Time to call
What is a mini-stroke or TIA?
A transient ischaemic attack (also called a
TIA or mini-stroke) happens when
there is a temporary blockage in the blood supply to the brain. A
TIA doesn’t cause permanent damage to your brain and the symptoms
usually pass within 24 hours.
It’s often hard to tell the difference between a stroke or TIA,
so if you think someone is having a TIA you should still
call 999. A TIA can be an important warning that there is
a problem with the blood supply to your brain.
How is stroke related to heart disease?
Coronary heart disease (angina and
heart attack) and stroke can be caused
by the same problem – atherosclerosis. This
is when your arteries become narrowed by a gradual build-up of
fatty material (called atheroma) within their
If a piece of atheroma breaks away
from one of your arteries it will lead to a
blood clot forming.
- If the blood clot blocks an artery to your
heart and cuts off the blood supply to your heart muscle, this is a
- If the blood clot blocks an artery to
your brain and cuts of the blood supply, this is an
If you have atrial
fibrillation (AF) your risk of stroke is increased by around
four to five times. This is because AF increases the risk of
a blood clot forming inside the chambers of your heart. This
clot can travel through your bloodstream and block the blood supply
to your brain - causing a stroke.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
A risk factor is something that that
increases your likelihood of getting a disease. The more risk
factors you have, the more likely you are to have a stroke.
Take a look at our cardiovascular
disease page to find out about the risk factors for stroke and
other cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease.
Find out more