Harvard Heart Letter

Think FAST to recall the warning signs of a stroke

One in six people worldwide will have a stroke in his or her lifetime. Learn to recognize a "brain attack."

Heart attacks often make themselves known with a hard-to-ignore, obvious symptom like chest pain. That's not the case for strokes, which can cause a wide range of symptoms that may affect your ability to speak, see, move, or feel. A stroke interrupts blood flow to the brain, depriving brain cells of oxygen and nutrients. Prompt treatment can prevent a potentially devastating disability or death—which is why everyone should know the top warning signs of stroke.

Most strokes (about five out of six) occur when a clot blocks an artery feeding the brain (ischemic stroke). The rest happen when an artery in the brain bursts and bleeds (hemorrhagic stroke). Regardless of the cause, the resulting symptoms, which vary widely from person to person, depend on the location of the blockage or bleed, as well as how much brain tissue is affected.

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