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What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel, which is carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain, bursts or is blocked by a clot.

This causes an interruption of the blood supply to a part of the brain. This can damage or destroy brain cells which will affect body functions.

A stroke is a medical emergency. Therefore, recognising the symptoms and accessing treatment immediately can be crucial.

The Irish Heart Foundation recommend
to Act F.A.S.T. when stroke strikes

A simple test can help you recognise if someone has had a stroke:


Facial weakness

Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?


Arm weakness

Can the person raise both arms?


Speech problems

Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?



Call 999 for an ambulance if you spot any one of these signs.

Every minute counts. Don’t wait for the symptoms to go away. Early medical treatment can prevent further damage to the brain and reduce the likelihood of death and disability.

It is also recommended, especially if you live in a rural area, to know your Eircode so that emergency services can find your home or workplace instantly.

Having a stroke

Stroke symptoms include:

  • Numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Slurred speech, difficulty thinking of words or understanding other people
  • Confusion
  • Sudden blurred vision or sight loss
  • Being unsteady on your feet
  • Severe headache

The right half of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa. For example, weakness or paralysis in the left arm may result from a stroke in the right side of the brain.

For most people, the left side of the brain controls language (talking, reading, writing, understanding). The right side controls perceptual skills (making sense of what you see, hear, touch) and spatial skills (judging size, speed, distance, position).

Having a stroke

There are two main types of stroke.

  1. 1. Ischaemic Stroke:
  2. Over 80% of strokes are caused by a blockage of an artery supplying blood to the brain. This is known as an ischaemic stroke. It is caused by:

    A blood clot that forms in a main blood vessel (artery) to the brain. This is called a cerebral thrombosis. Clots form in arteries that already have been narrowed by a condition called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

    Atherosclerosis causes fatty material to build up along the inner lining of the arteries so that they become narrower and the blood flowing through them becomes more likely to clot.

    Lifestyle risk factors for atherosclerosis include high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity.

    A partial clot that may form in the heart or the blood vessels of the neck which is carried in the bloodstream to the brain and gets lodged in an artery. This is a cerebral embolism.

    Blockages that occur in the tiny blood vessels deep in the brain. This is a lacunar stroke.

  3. 2. Haemorrhagic stroke:
  4. Up to 20% of strokes are caused by a bleed into the brain from a burst blood vessel. This is called a cerebral haemorrhage and causes the more serious kind of stroke.

    It is often not obvious why someone should have suffered a stroke. Even though many people believe it to be a factor, stress is not a cause of stroke.

Having a stroke
Having a stroke