What is a stroke?

A stroke is a brain attack

Outline of a person's face and neck, illustration of the brain

It happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. It can be caused by a blockage in one of the blood vessels leading to the brain or a bleed in the brain.
 
Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to your brain. Without blood your brain cells can be damaged or destroyed. 
 
Strokes affect people in different ways, depending on the part of the brain that is affected, how widespread the damage is and how healthy the person was before the stroke. A stroke can affect the way your body functions as well as your thought processes and how you feel and communicate.
 
A stroke can also have an emotional impact and can cause problems such as anxiety, depression or changes to your personality.
 
Find out more about the different types of stroke or about the effects of stroke
 

What causes a stroke?

Most strokes happen when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to your brain. Blood clots usually form in areas where the arteries have become narrowed or ‘furred’ up by fatty deposits. This is called atheroscelrosis.
 
As we age our arteries become harder and narrower. However, certain medical conditions and lifestyle factors can speed up this process and increase your risk of having a stroke.
 
Medical problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase your risk of having a stroke. 
 
Lifestyle factors, such as diet, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking and how active you are, can also increase your risk.
 
Find out about the factors that can increase your risk of stroke and what you can do about them.
 

Can you recover from a stroke?

All strokes are different. For some people the effects may be relatively minor and may not last long, while others may be left with more serious long term effects.
 
The quicker you receive treatment, the better your chances for a good recovery, so it’s important to call 999 and get to hospital straight away.
 
Make sure you know how to recognise the symptoms of stroke.

 

Read our publications:
What is a stroke?
What is a stroke? - Welsh

Useful links:
NHS Choices Information Prescription
Patient UK
Dr Foster

What is a Stroke? by Stroke Association