How to survive a stroke

A stroke is a medical emergency. It can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, and even death. If you notice the symptoms of stroke, call 911 right away. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances of surviving and making a full recovery.

Prepare for a stroke ahead of time. Learn your risk factors for stroke. All older women are at higher risk of stroke. If you are at high risk of stroke, or are a caregiver for an older person, write down the following and keep this list in your wallet or on your refrigerator:

  • Location of the nearest hospital with a 24-hour stroke center. Find a Primary Stroke Center or Comprehensive Stroke Center in your area on QualityCheck.org. Stroke centers are hospitals with special certifications in stroke care. In some states, if a stroke center is nearby, you or your family members can ask the ambulance to take you there.
  • List of medicines you take and ones you are allergic to. Include prescription and over-the-counter medicines and any vitamins and minerals or other supplements you take. Keep a copy with you at all times.

Take action. If you notice any stroke symptoms, don't wait.

  • Call 911 right away. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances of surviving and making a full recovery. For many people, the best stroke treatment must be given within 3 hours of when your symptoms start. Note the time when you first notice any symptoms.
  • Don't drive. Wait for the ambulance to arrive, as ambulance workers can begin lifesaving treatment on the way to the hospital.

Do not take aspirin. Aspirin can make some kinds of stroke worse.