Stroke Awareness: Get the Facts

Learn about the risk factors and how to prevent stroke

A VA nurse pushing a Veteran in a wheelchair to receive early treatment for stroke symptoms A stroke occurs when either too much blood or too little blood disrupts blood flow to part of the brain. This deprives brain tissue of necessary oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die, resulting in a loss of brain function. If strokes are treated promptly, brain damage can be minimized. But it's common to mistake signs of a stroke for other health problems.

There are several types of stroke. Learn the symptoms for each:

  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is an early warning that a stroke may be coming. A TIA is a temporary stroke. It causes no lasting damage. But the effects of a stroke, if it happens, can be very serious and lasting. If you think you are having symptoms of a TIA or stroke—even if they don't last—get medical help right away. Learn the symptoms of a TIA.

  • Ischemic Stroke: Ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that supplies the brain is greatly narrowed or blocked. This can be caused by a buildup of plaque. It can also occur when small pieces of plaque or blood clots (called emboli) break off into the bloodstream. Learn the symptoms of an Ischemic stroke.

  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain bursts (hemorrhages). This spills blood into the surrounding tissue. This type of stroke often happens suddenly, with little warning. It is one of the most serious of all types of strokes. Learn the symptoms of a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. This lets blood spill into nearby brain tissue, which damages the cells. Other brain cells die because their normal blood supply cuts off. Learn the symptoms of an hemorrhagic stroke.

Risk factors for stroke

Certain health and lifestyle choices increase your chances of having a stroke. High blood pressure is the leading risk factor. But risk factors are different for each person.

Effects of a stroke on the brain and body

When blood supply is cut off from the brain, cells begin to die from lack of oxygen. Within minutes, you may lose skills such as reasoning, speech, and arm or leg movement. The severity depends on two things: which part of the brain was affected and how much tissue was damaged.

Preventing another stroke with a healthier lifestyle

Breaking old habits is hard. But when your health is at stake, it's never too late to make changes. Start a conversation with your family and friends about the support you may need. Your VA health care team is also here to help. Send a Secure Message to ask about where to start.


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Read More

Preventing Recurrent Stroke: Eating Healthy (Veterans Health Library)

Stroke and Heart Disease (Veterans Health Library)

Understanding High Blood Pressure 


Updated October 27, 2022