• Diagnosing a Stroke

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    How well you recover from a stroke has a lot to do with how quickly your stroke is diagnosed and treatment begins. If you or someone you’re with has the following symptoms, call 911 immediately and tell them you or the person you’re with is having a stroke and you need to go to the closest stroke treatment center.

    Stroke Symptoms

    If you can get to the hospital or clinic within an hour of your first symptoms, you stand a better chance of being evaluated and treated within the necessary three-hour window for receiving t-PA, one of the most effective ways to treat an ischemic stroke.

    Evaluation by Emergency Personnel and a Stroke Care Team

    Emergency personnel, physicians, and other members of the stroke care will perform and order the following tests to determine as quickly as possible if you are having a stroke, and if you are, the type of stroke (ischemic or hemorrhagic), and the location of the problem:

    • You’ll be asked to describe your symptoms and provide a medical history, family history of illnesses, and a list of any medications that you take.
    • Your doctor will examine you by listening to your heart and checking your pulse, lungs, blood pressure, muscles, nerves, sensation, coordination, reflexes, memory, speech, and thinking.
    • Blood tests will be done to provide more information but also rule out other possible causes of the stroke.
    • Most hospitals will give you a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine if the stroke was caused by a blockage in the artery (ischemic stroke) or by bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke).
    • Sometimes stroke can be related to a heart problem, so your doctor may also request an echocardiogram to find out for sure.
    • If the stroke is caused by the blockage or narrowing of the arteries to the brain, your doctor may also look at arteries in other parts of the body for signs of coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease. If arteries are narrowed or blocked in one part of the body, chances are good that plaque is building up in other parts of the body, too, putting you at risk for other problems, such as a heart attack.

    Silent Stroke Diagnosis

    A silent stroke has no symptoms, so the people who have them don’t know it until they have an MRI for some other reason. Just like mini strokes, silent strokes are a warning that you may need treatment to avoid having another, potentially more damaging stroke.

    The Role of Your Primary Care Physician

    Your primary care physician may be the first to determine that you have risk factors for a stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular disease. He or she may initiate treatments, such as dietary changes, exercise, and medications to control your risk factors.

    Or your primary care doctor may refer you to a specialist for further diagnosis and treatment. You may be referred to a cardiologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the heart and arteries.

    Why a heart doctor? Because 85 percent of strokes are caused by a build-up of fatty deposits, or plaque, inside the vessels—the same condition that causes most heart attacks. Thus, cardiologists’ training in treating blockages in the arteries leading to the heart has also prepared them to treat most strokes. Increasingly, cardiologists are using procedures similar to those they use to stop heart attacks—and they are successfully stopping stroke in its tracks. And, while your cardiologist is treating you to prevent stroke, he or she will also treat you to prevent heart attacks.

    Even if you are referred to a specialist, your primary care doctor will continue to play a role in your care. He or she should continue to be a key member of your care team, working with you to control risk factors and coordinating your care with specialists and various support teams.

    For much more information on stroke, please visit SecondsCount's Stroke Treatment & Prevention articles here.

  • More Information on Stroke

    Preventing Stroke

    Anyone can have a stroke. But according to the National Stroke Association, 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Stroke

    The following questions can help you talk to your physician about your individual risk of having a stroke. Print out or write down these questions and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.

    Recovering from Stroke

    Recovering from a stroke can be challenging and frustrating. Work with your doctor and other healthcare professionals to prevent complications and another stroke. The complications or disabilities you or your loved one face depend on the location and extent of the damage to the brain from the stroke. You may or may not have any of these difficulties. It depends how your stroke affected you.

    Resources Related to Stroke

    More information about stroke, its symptoms, treatment, and other great resources for the survivor and his or her caregivers.

    SecondsCount Stroke Caregiver Tips

    As a caregiver for someone who had a stroke, you have a lot to do and too much on your mind. Try this list of suggestions for getting organized, saving time, and helping the person you love and yourself through this challenging time.

    Stopping and Preventing Strokes

    Call 911 if you or the person you’re with could be having a stroke. A stroke is a life-threatening, potentially disabling medical emergency that requires immediate medical evaluation and treatment. Call 911 if you or someone with you experiences these symptoms.


    Every second counts if you or someone you love is having a stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Just a few hours can make the difference between recovery or learning to walk and talk all over again—or worse still—death. If you think you might be having a stroke, don’t wait, note the time, call 911...

    Stroke Risk Factors

    You don’t have to be old to have a stroke. Anyone can have one. But some people are more at risk than others.

    The SecondsCount Stroke Risk Quiz

    How much do you know about strokes? Did you know that it’s the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death? It is, but 80 percent of strokes can be prevented! Take this quick true/false quiz to learn what you can do for yourself and those you love to prevent stroke.

    What Causes a Stroke?

    Strokes happen for two different reasons. The most common cause is blood stops flowing to the brain. The flow of blood is blocked by a clot or a buildup of a fatty substance called plaque in an artery leading to the brain—a process called atherosclerosis, or more generally, cardiovascular disease. The other reasons for strokes involve blood leaking into the brain or between the brain and the skull. These strokes happen when an artery leading to the brain bursts because it is weak or damaged from aging or years of high blood pressure. It’s important for you and your healthcare team to know the cause of the stroke to determine the best treatment.