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A stroke can be life-changing event and can happen to anyone. Remembering how to prevent stroke and how to recognize signs of stroke is a meaningful way to honor World Stroke Day. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the oxygen it needs. Fast treatment may reduce the long term effects of stroke.

There are three important things to remember about stroke:

  • Care starts when the ambulance arrives. Call 911 if you experience or identify any sign of stroke.
  • Understand ways to identify stroke in yourself or someone else.
  • Reduce your risk for stroke by changing a few daily habits.

Care starts when the ambulance arrives.

Did you know that only 51% of individuals experiencing a stroke arrive at the emergency department in an ambulance? Calling an ambulance saves precious time because stroke care begins as soon as Emergency Medical Technicians (the EMTs) arrive. EMTs also alert the hospital to prepare for the person’s arrival. Because time is so critical in a stroke, stroke teams are working to reduce the amount of time it takes for suspected stroke patients to receive a CT scan and the clot-busting medications, if appropriate. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health supports all hospitals in improving care to stroke patients through Primary Stroke Service licensure and the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program.

Don’t hesitate for more information – call 911 at any sign of stroke.

A person could be having a stroke if they show any of these signs. Since time is critical, call 911 immediately:

  • Face droops on one side, or
  • Arm weakness: When the person lifts both arms, one arm drifts down, or
  • Speech difficulty: The person has trouble speaking, or is not making sense when speaking.

Experiencing any of the following could indicate that you are having a stroke and should call 911:

  • Sudden weakness on one side of the body, or
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding words, or
  • Sudden problems seeing or blurry vision, or
  • Sudden trouble walking or loss of balance, or
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

You can reduce your risk for stroke.

Combining a healthy diet, healthy blood pressure, regular physical activity, and quitting tobacco can make a bigger difference than you think!

  • Check your blood pressure regularly and take all medications as prescribed.
  • Add more healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to your diet. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.
  • Get active whenever you can: Try for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Quitting smoking and vaping lowers your risk: Tobacco and nicotine increase your risk for stroke by raising your blood pressure.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health works to make all of these behaviors accessible for everyone in the Commonwealth. Learn more about our work around healthy blood pressure, creating conditions for healthier eating and physical activity, and our tobacco prevention and control work.

Start lowering your risk for stroke today. Find more helpful tips and resources at mass.gov/stroke.

Written By:


Director of Health Communications in the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention

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