Stroke and your heart

Brain scan

A stroke is life-threatening. If you or anyone else is having a stroke, you should phone 999 for an ambulance immediately.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off, causing your brain cells to become damaged or die.

If you notice signs of a stroke - call 999

Act F.A.S.T to recognise the signs:

  • 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 – it's time to call 999 immediately if you see any of these symptoms

What is a stroke?

A stroke is similar to a heart attack, except it affects the brain. A heart attack happens when blood suddenly can't get through to a part of your heart. A stroke happens when blood suddenly can't get through to a part of your brain

During a stroke, brain cells in the affected part of your brain become damaged because they're not getting the oxygen they need from your blood. This can then affect the way your mind and body work.

Types of stroke:

  • 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 in your brain bursts and the pressure from the leaked blood damages brain cells 
  • mini-strokes, or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), happen when there is a temporary problem with 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.

What increases my chance of having a stroke?

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to have a disease.

Risk factors for stroke are similar to risk factors for heart disease. The good news is some of these risk factors are modifiable — this means you can do something about them to reduce your chance of a stroke and heart disease.

If you have untreated 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 will happen to me in hospital?

Within 24 hours of arriving at hospital you will have a brain scan. If the doctor thinks you have had a stroke, you will need to have others tests to find out what type of stroke you had, why you had a stroke and what treatment you need.

The Stroke Association has more detailed information on what happens to people with a stroke in hospital, including tests and treatment. 

What will my recovery be like?

A stroke affects different people in different ways.

You’re likely to see the most improvement in the first few weeks of your recovery, usually while you are still in hospital. But it may take many months or even years.

Your rehabilitation will begin in hospital where a team of specialists, including nurses and physiotherapists, will discuss with you what help you need. The aim of rehabilitation is to help you live as independently as you did before you had a stroke.

Stroke can be sudden and devastating, but for some people, there are new horizons beyond it. Watch our video to hear Mark and Paul talking about life after a stroke, read Ken's story of learning to communicate again after a stroke and read how staying active after a stroke helped Margaret with her recovery.  

Stroke - your quick guideStroke - your quick guide

This short illustrated leaflet explains the symptoms, causes and types of stroke. It tells you what you might expect from your recovery and explains how stroke and heart disease are linked. It's suitable for you if you've had a stroke or have been told you are at risk of having one.

Order or download 

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Leading the fight against stroke

Every day 640 people go to hospital because of a stroke. The condition causes 40,000 deaths in the UK each year. 

Thanks to our supporters we are the UK’s major independent funder of cardiovascular research, which includes vital stroke research. Our researchers are fighting to change the story for people who've had a stroke. 

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