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Department of Psychiatry
Hospital  >  Departments  >  Psychiatry  >  Patient care  >  Geriatric Division

Patient Education: Diseases Conditions Treatments & Procedures


Definition and symptoms

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within a few minutes, brain cells begin to die.

Strokes seem to appear suddenly and transform the lives of survivors. They affect all ages: children, youth, adults and older adults and sometimes seemingly healthy individuals. People who have survived stroke are also susceptible to another brain attack, with 20 per cent experiencing a second stroke within two years.

Stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment of a stroke could mean the difference between life and death. Early treatment can also minimize damage to your brain and potential disability. 

Stroke warning signs

Sudden experience of one or more of the following may mean you are having a stroke:

  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the face, arm or leg
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Loss of vision , particularly in one eye, or double vision
  • Severe and unusual headache
  • Dizziness or loss of balance , especially with any of the above signs
  • A sudden, severe "bolt out of the blue" headache or an unusual headache, which may be accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between your eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness 
  • Confusion, or problems with memory, spatial orientation or perception

For most people, a stroke gives no warning.

What to do in case of stroke

Call 911 immediately if you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke.

Partially adapted from the Heart & Stroke Foundation.