Stroke - Minnesota Department of Health


Stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident or brain attack, occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly stopped.

This process is similar to a heart attack. Without oxygen, the nerve cells in the affected area of the brain cannot function and often die. As a result, the parts of the body controlled by that part of the brain are usually unable to work.

There are two main types of stroke. About 80% of strokes are ischemic strokes, which occur when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain.

Transient ischemic attacks are temporary blockages in the blood supply to the brain. Sometimes these are called “mini-strokes,” but these need to be taken seriously because they are usually a warning of a future full-blown stroke.

Signs and symptoms

Someone having a stroke may experience only one, or several of these warning signs:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone near you is possibly having a stroke, it is an emergency.
Call 9-1-1 immediately


Time lost is brain lost. The faster a stroke is diagnosed and treated, the better chance there is of reducing permanent damage and disability.

  • Ischemic strokes may be treated with a medication called alteplase that breaks up blood clots in the brain. It works best if given within 4.5 hours after symptoms start. Some large hospitals can perform procedures that physically remove the blood clot.
  • Brain surgery is sometimes needed for hemorrhagic strokes.

Preventing Stroke

Lifestyle Changes

  • Know your numbers. Learn more about knowing and managing your blood pressure numbers on the High Blood Pressure webpage.
  • Manage your cholesterol levels. For more information, visit the American Heart Association's Control Your Cholesterol.
  • Get Physically Activity and eat healthy meals to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don't use commercial tobacco. Visit the Minnesota QUITPLAN or call 1-888-354-PLAN for tools and support to quit tobacco.

Self-Management and Measurement

Monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and can be done at home. For more information on self-measuring, visit the Million Hearts website. The American Heart Association has tools for personal online tracking through their Check. Change. Control. program.

Individuals with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)–a type of irregular heartbeat– are four to five times more likely to have an ischemic stroke. If you have AFib, take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.

Strokes happen two to four times more often in people with diabetes. People with diabetes can lower their risk of stroke by controlling their blood pressure and cholesterol.

Healthcare and Medication: Taking Medication Correctly

If you take medication for high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, it is important to follow the instructions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

There are some risk factors of stroke that cannot be changed.

Age: The normal aging process increases stroke risk. The risk of stroke doubles every 10 years after age 55.

Sex: Men are more likely to have a stroke, but a higher number of women have and die from strokes every year. This is because women live longer than men and strokes are more common as you get older.

Race/Ethnicity: African Americans are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have a stroke than whites. This is because of higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure in this group.

Family History: A person is more likely to have a stroke if they have a family member who has had a stroke. Family members share genes, cultures, lifestyles, and environments that together may increase their risk of stroke.

What we're doing

Learn more about how the Minnesota Stroke Program is working to raise awareness and improve care for stroke patients.


Updated Wednesday, 20-Nov-2019 17:46:58 CST