Roro ikura Stroke

A stroke happens when you have a bleed or a blood clot blocking the blood supply to part of your brain. This causes damage to brain tissue that might have long-term effects. The effects of a stroke depend on which part of your brain is affected.

Video: Know the signs of stroke — think FAST

Watch this video to find out what the signs of stroke are.

Symptoms of a stroke

The main symptoms of a stroke are known as FAST. These are:

  • Face – face drooping on one side.
  • Arm – arm weak on one side. The leg may also be weak.
  • Speech – speech jumbled or slurred.
  • Time – Time is critical. Call 111 for an ambulance.

Other less common symptoms of a stroke include:

  • dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall
  • loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • headache, usually severe and coming on suddenly
  • difficulty swallowing.
Call 111 immediately if you or someone close to you suddenly develops any stroke symptoms.

Mini strokes (transient ischaemic attack)

Some people develop symptoms similar to a stroke, but fully recover within a few hours. This may be a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also called a mini stroke.

Transient ischaemic attack — HealthInfo (external link)

Diagnosing a stroke

To diagnose a stroke, a doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you.

If they suspect a stroke, they will arrange further tests, such as:

  • blood tests
  • an ECG (electrocardiogram) to check your heart rhythm
  • a CT or MRI scan of your head.

Treating a stroke

Your treatment depends on the type of stroke you have had, including which part of your brain is affected and what caused the stroke.

Emergency treatment is used to reduce the damage to your brain. If a blood clot has caused your stroke, options include a medicine to dissolve the clot (thrombolysis) and a procedure to remove the blood clot from your brain (clot retrieval).

You may need rehabilitation to help recover from the lasting effects of the stroke. You may have help from a physiotherapist, occupational therapist and speech-language therapist for this.

You will need ongoing treatment with medications to reduce your risk of having a further stroke.

Self care after a stroke

After a stroke, making healthy choices can help you recover and reduce your risk of a further stroke and heart attack.

Changes you can make include:

  • stop smoking, if you smoke
  • keep as active as possible
  • eat and drink well
  • be a healthy weight.

You will also need to take preventive medication for the rest of your life. This may include:

  • medication to stop clots forming (antiplatelet medication)
  • medication to control blood pressure
  • statin medication to lower cholesterol
  • blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants) if you have atrial fibrillation.

It is common and understandable that you may feel down or anxious after a stroke. It is important to let people know how you are feeling and get help. The Stroke Foundation has advice about depression and anxiety after a stroke.

Depression and anxiety after a stroke — Stroke Foundation NZ (external link)

Fatigue is common after a stroke as your brain takes time to recover and you need to adjust to a new life situation. The Stroke Foundation has advice about fatigue.

Fatigue after a stroke — Stroke Foundation NZ (external link)

The Stroke Foundation represents the interests of stroke survivors and their families. It works with them to improve the quality of life of those affected by stroke. It has Community Stroke Advisers who can help with any stroke-related problems. They make hospital and home visits, and provide support and information. They can also provide information about stroke clubs, community support groups and carer support.

Stroke Foundation NZ (external link)

Those looking after you may also need help. The Stroke Foundation has information about carer wellbeing.

Carer wellbeing — Stroke Foundation NZ (external link)

Carers of people who have had strokes may be eligible for Carer Support.

Carer support — Whaikaha (external link)

You can also contact your healthcare provider for advice and support.

Preventing strokes

You cannot control all risk factors, but lifestyle changes can help you lower some risks. This means:

  • if you smoke, stop smoking
  • eat healthy food
  • avoid too much alcohol
  • keep active
  • maintain a healthy weight.

See your healthcare provider to get checked for other conditions that affect your risk of stroke such as: 

  • high blood pressure
  • atrial fibrillation
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes.

If you have any of these conditions, keep them under control.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)