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A stroke happens when part of your brain doesn't get the blood that it needs. It is sometimes called a "brain attack." This is because, like a heart attack, a stroke causes a lack of blood flow. Without blood, your brains cells will start to die within minutes. A stroke is very serious and you should get to the hospital right away by calling 9-1-1. Learn what to expect at the hospital when you're having a stroke.
Strokes happen fast. Some of the most common signs are sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, confusion, and trouble walking or speaking. See the figure, "Signs of a Stroke," for a full list of stroke signs.
If you have stroke signs that don't last long, you might have had a "mini-stroke." These small strokes — called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) — may not last long, but they still require treatment. Also, a TIA could be a sign that you are about to have a major stroke. "Mini" or not, these symptoms are an emergency.
If you have or see someone having any stroke symptoms, call 911 right away. Every minute counts! Current stroke treatments can raise the chances of recovering with few or no disabilities. But you must get help right away. These treatments will work only if you get them no later than three hours after your symptoms began. Do not drive yourself or let a friend drive you. You may need medical help on the way to the hospital. Paramedics are trained to treat you on the way to the emergency room.
If you're having a stroke, you may not be able to call 911. In fact, you may not even be able to move or talk! In most stroke cases, it's a family member, coworker, or other bystander who calls 911. That's why everyone should know the signs of stroke and how to react.
Content last updated: February 01, 2009.