A stroke is the result of an interruption in the supply of blood to the brain. A lack of oxygen or nutrients for brain cells causes them to die. An area of brain damaged during a stroke event is called a cerebral infarct.

How a Stroke Happens

Normally, arteries continuously supply the brain with oxygen and nutrient rich blood through arteries. Blood supply may be interrupted or stop moving through an artery because (i) the artery is blocked (ischaemic stroke) or (ii) the artery bursts (haemorrhagic stroke).

Brain cells start to die shortly after the stroke begins. However, cells may survive for a few hours if blood supply is not completely halted. If the victim’s blood supply can be returned shortly after the stroke, some of the affected cells may recover.

A transient ischaemic attack is a temporary interruption in the blood supply to the brain. It produces the same effects as a stroke but symptoms may disappear within a day.

FAST Action

Use the FAST test as a quick way to remember and identify the signs of a stroke.

  • Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arms – Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time – Time is critical. If you see any of the above signs, call an emergency number (000 in Australia).