Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Signs and symptoms of a stroke, and what to do about them

Infographic about the sign of a stroke If you see the signs in yourself or someone else, please call 9-1-1 so they can get the proper treatment. You could save a life in doing so (Photo by: Rebecca Westfall, U.S. Army Medical Command).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury

The most important factor to keep in mind during a stroke is not wasting time, say neurological specialists. “Time is brain,” is the common medical adage, because every second counts to get the best possible outcome.

According to Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Michael Crimmins, chief of interventional neuroradiology and stroke medical director at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, humans lose about 1 million brain cells per minute during a stroke. He recommends getting to a hospital right away, preferably by ambulance, “because they can bypass triage and get you immediate medical attention.”

A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Crimmins explained strokes are the No. 1 leading cause of preventable disability in the United States and among the top 10 causes of death for men and women in the country.

They can occur from two scenarios:

“There are ischemic strokes, where a blood clot stops the blood from flowing into the blood vessels of the brain,” said Crimmins. “And there are hemorrhagic – or bleeding – strokes, where a blood vessel tears or ruptures, causing bleeding into the brain.”

In both cases, the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain is interrupted.

“When you lack blood flow to the brain for long enough, the neurons – the brain cells – start to die,” said Crimmins. “The brain and the neurons control our ability to use our bodies, so once they die it’s very difficult to recover that function, especially as we get older.”

These include functions like movement, breathing, and digestion; memory storage; and thoughts, emotions, and language, according to the CDC.

Ischemic strokes, noted Crimmins, are what most people think about when they think about stroke. Those can be caused by a variety of factors.

“The most common cause is frequently due to an embolism, a clot that forms in the heart, which the heart then pumps into the brain,” he said. “Other people have carotid artery disease and others have narrowing, or atherosclerosis, of the blood vessels of the brain itself, so any one of those can stop blood from flowing into the brain.”

And while there are risk factors that elevate the potential for suffering a stroke, having one often happens out of the blue, with patients not realizing they’re having a stroke “until they do,” he said.

“In that case, the onset of symptoms is very quick – they go from having no symptoms one minute to having an inability to speak or move a part of their body the next.”

Risk factors can be genetic and include hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, smoking, and the use of illegal drugs, such as cocaine. But, according to Crimmins, they’re treatable.

“Sometimes, we can work on those with medication, by adjusting the patient’s diet, or helping them make other lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation,” he said. “If you have concerns over some other risk factors, it would be smart to try and maximize your health, like getting these medical conditions under control to prevent strokes and the potential for dementia down the road.”

At a military medical treatment facility, neurologists like Crimmins conduct a series of tests to identify the type of stroke a patient is having before treating it.

“We can potentially give clot-busting medication or even do a surgical removal of a clot by accessing the artery in the leg and going up to do an extraction,” he said.

The medication works by dissolving the clot and improving the blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood and oxygen, noted Crimmins.

“For severe strokes, surgical intervention has been found to be the most helpful way to treat somebody with a severe stroke,” he said.

Either way, the most important takeaway is getting immediate attention. “We know that the longer you wait the less likely you are to have a good outcome after a stroke,” said Crimmins.

Below are some important facts about strokes:

  1. Don’t waste time – act F.A.S.T. to get medical attention as soon as you notice symptoms of a stroke.
  2. Men and women present the same symptoms of strokes.
  3. Depending on which blood vessel is closed off, symptoms can include any change in typical brain function: Slurred speech or a change in speech, such as a “word salad” in which words don’t seem like they go together and are not what a person means; weakness on the arm, face, or leg; double or blurry vision; severe vertigo or dizziness, severe headache.
  4. It’s possible to have a stroke and not even know it: Strokes can be asymptomatic, or silent, and are only discovered as scar tissue on the brain once people see their doctor for what they think are memory problems or headaches.
  5. Untreated strokes can lead to dementia due to a chronic loss in mental faculties.
  6. You can help reduce your risk of stroke by maintaining healthy living habits and controlling certain medical conditions.
  7. Once you have a stroke, you’re at higher risk of having another stroke soon.
  8. Strokes occur more frequently in the people between the ages of 60-80. However, there are a fair number of younger people who have strokes, including service members, due to irregular heart rhythm or a tear in the blood vessels, called a dissection.

You also may be interested in...

Concussion Awareness V1

Infographic
8/3/2021
Social media infographic on September 17

According to the Defense Health Agency Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence (TBICoE), 439,609 service members have been diagnosed with a first-time TBI since 2000. The most common form of TBI in the military is mild, and is also known as a concussion.

Recommended Content:

September Toolkit | Traumatic Brain Injury

Did You Know? Concussions - Mild TBI

Infographic
8/3/2021
Social media infographic for concussions

Concussions are the most common form or Traumatic Brain Injury in the Military. Be TBI ready!

Recommended Content:

September Toolkit | Traumatic Brain Injury

Returning to Duty After Concussion

Infographic
2/24/2021
What's the best way to recover from a concussion? Returning to duty too soon after a concussion can lead to prolonged symptoms, decreased readiness, poor marksmanship, accidents and falls, and increased risk of more concussions. Progressively increasing activity in a step-wise manner can help you resolve your symptoms and return to duty safely. Ask your primary health care provider about TBICoE's Progressive Return to Activity to help you return to duty as quickly and safely as possible. Visit health.mil/TBICoE.

This TBICoE infographic gives an overview of the risks of returning to duty too soon after a concussion and explains how a progressive increase in activity can help get you back to duty safely. Returning to duty too soon after concussion can lead to prolonged symptoms, poor marksmanship, decreased readiness, accidents and falls, and increased risk of more concussions.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Brain Injury Awareness Month | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Educators | Provider Resources | Brain Injury Awareness Toolkit

Brain Injury Awareness Month "Be TBI Ready" Infographic

Infographic
2/24/2021
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Be TBI Ready. A traumatic brain injury—or TBI—is a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of the TBI is determined at the time of the injury and may be classified as: mild, moderate, severe, or penetrating.

During Brain Injury Awareness Month, TBICoE and the MHS will promote the theme “Be TBI Ready” — recognizing that health care providers and others in the military community need to be aware of the latest educational trainings, research, fact sheets, and other available resources to prevent, diagnose, and treat TBI.

Recommended Content:

Brain Injury Awareness Month | Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Brain Injury Awareness Toolkit

Sleep After Concussion

Infographic
2/18/2021
Sleep After Concussion. Service members with TBI report 3 times more sleep problems. TBIs can happen anywhere, only 16.9 percent of TBIs happen while deployed. Visit health.mil/TBIFactSheets to learn more about sleep problems and how to improve them

"Sleep After Concussion" is intended for patients and caregivers of those who have sustained a TBI. The infographic reviews general information of sleep-related concerns and points towards additional educational resources.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Educators | Traumatic Brain Injury | Sleep | Brain Injury Awareness Toolkit

Sleep After mTBI

Infographic
11/19/2020
Sleep After mTBI

"Sleep After mTBI" is intended for providers to show the importance of screening and treating service members affected by sleep issues following mTBI.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Provider Resources | Brain Injury Awareness Toolkit | Sleep

Mononucleosis

Infographic
7/1/2019
Mononucleosis

A specimen is tested for mononucleosis at the medical clinic on Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Influenza

Infographic
7/1/2019
Adminstration of a seasonal flu vaccination. (U.S. Navy photo)

Adminstration of a seasonal flu vaccination. (U.S. Navy photo)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Zika

Infographic
7/1/2019
Zika

Anopheles merus mosquito. (CDC photo by James Gathany)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Psittacosis

Infographic
7/1/2019
Psittacosis

Green-winged Macaw. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Cyclosporiasis

Infographic
6/1/2019
Cyclosporiasis

Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis in a U.S. Air Force Training Population, Joint Base San Antonio–Lackland, TX, 2018 While bacteria and viruses are the usual causes of gastrointestinal disease outbreaks, 2 Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)– Lackland, TX, training populations experienced an outbreak of diarrheal illness caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis in June and July 2018. Cases were identified from outpatient medical records and responses to patient questionnaires.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Norovirus

Infographic
6/1/2019
Norovirus

Norovirus Outbreak in Army Service Members, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, May 2018 In May 2018, an outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses due to norovirus occurred at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The outbreak lasted 14 days, and a total of 91 cases, of which 8 were laboratory confirmed and 83 were suspected, were identified.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Female infertility

Infographic
6/1/2019
Female infertility

Female infertility, active component service women, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013–2018 This report presents the incidence and prevalence of diagnosed female infertility among active component service women. During 2013–2018, 8,744 active component women of childbearing potential were diagnosed with infertility for the first time, resulting in an overall incidence of 79.3 cases per 10,000 person-years (p-yrs).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Ambulatory Visits, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018

Infographic
5/1/2019
Ambulatory Visits

Ambulatory Visits, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018 This report documents the frequencies, rates, trends, and characteristics of ambulatory healthcare visits of active component members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps during 2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Absolute and Relative Morbidity Burdens

Infographic
5/1/2019
Absolute and relative morbidity burdens

Absolute and Relative Morbidity Burdens Attributable To Various Illnesses and Injuries, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2018 This annual summary uses a standard disease classification system (modified for use among U.S. military members) and several healthcare burden measures to quantify the impacts of various illnesses and injuries among members of the active component of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 5

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.