Things that can increase your chance of having a stroke include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- not doing enough exercise
- being overweight or obese
- regularly drinking too much alcohol
- using illegal drugs, such as cocaine
- a family history of stroke or heart disease
- atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat)
- conditions that affect how your blood clots, such as haemophilia
Some strokes can be quite mild and you soon recover, whereas others can be more severe and cause lasting damage. Some can even be fatal.
Complications that can happen after a stroke can include:
- weakness or paralysis, often on one side of your body
- difficulty swallowing
- problems sleeping
- problems with your speech, reading and writing
- problems with your sight – you might have double vision or find it hard to see
- problems with your memory and difficulty concentrating
- difficulty controlling your bladder and bowel movements (incontinence or constipation)
- problems having sex
- changes in your personality and behaviour
- anxiety or depression
- pain (often in your shoulder)
- seizures (fits)
The symptoms of a stroke usually come on suddenly, within seconds or minutes. A good way to recognise if you or someone you’re with has had a stroke is to use the ‘FAST’ test.
- Face. If you’ve had a stroke, your face may feel weak and you won’t be able to smile. Your face may also look odd – your mouth or eye may droop down on one side.
- Arm. You won’t be able to raise your arm and hold it there.
- Speech. You may have slurred speech or find it difficult to remember the names of common objects.
- Time to call 999. If you have one or more of these symptoms, or you see them in someone else, get emergency help straightaway.
You might need to take medicines or have an operation after a stroke, but that will depend on which type of stroke you have. For more information, see our topics on haemorrhagic stroke and ischaemic stroke.
A stroke can damage your brain so you may need to relearn how to do certain things, or adapt how you do them. This is known as stroke rehabilitation. A multidisciplinary team of health professionals will work out a rehabilitation plan that’s designed to help you regain as much independence as possible.
Here are some suggestions that may help you while you recover.
- Think positively and focus on what you want to achieve.
- Practise the exercises and tasks you’re given but don't overdo them– some days will be easier than others.
- If you’re not sure why you’ve been asked to do some exercises and tasks, ask. This will help you to stay motivated.
- Keep in mind that your recovery may be gradual. Don’t be put off if it feels like you’re making slow progress.
- Get help when you need it but try to do as much as you can for yourself. Some tasks may seem difficult, but the more you can do on your own, the more independent you’ll become.
- Stroke Association
0303 3033 100
- Ischaemic stroke. BMJ Best Practice. bestpractice.bmj.com, last updated 3 December 2015
- Cardiovascular disease statistics 2015. British Heart Foundation. www.bhf.org.uk, published 8 December 2015
- National clinical guideline for stroke. Royal College of Physicians. www.rcplondon.ac.uk, published September 2012
- Stroke and transient ischaemic attack in over 16s: Diagnosis and initial management National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 23 July 2008. www.nice.org.uk
- Ischemic stroke. Medscape. emedicine.medscape.com, updated 23 November 2015
- Haemorrhagic stroke. BMJ Best Practice. bestpractice.bmj.com, last updated 26 April 2016
- Hemorrhagic stroke. Medscape. emedicine.medscape.com, updated 8 January 2015
- Carotid artery dissection. Medscape. emedicine.medscape.com, updated 2 September 2015
- NINDS stroke information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov, last modified 26 May 2016
- Stroke and TIA. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised December 2013
- Management of patients with stroke: rehabilitation, prevention and management of complications, and discharge planning. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN), June 2010. www.sign.ac.uk
- Map of medicine. Stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA). International view. London: Map of medicine; 2016 (issue 2)
- Cerebrovascular event rehabilitation. PatientPlus. www.patient.info/patientplus, last checked 2 August 2013
- Stroke rehabilitation in adults. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 12 June 2013. www.nice.org.uk
- Stroke Association
We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.
Let us know what you think using our short feedback form Ask us a question
Reviewed by Rachael Mayfield-Blake, Freelance Health Editor, October 2016
Expert reviewer Dr Ahamad Hassan, Consultant Neurologist and Stroke Physician
Next review due October 2019
About our health information
At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.
Information StandardWe are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
What our readers say about us
But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.
“Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.”
“It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.”
“Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.”
Meet the team
Head of Health Content
- Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor
- Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor, User Experience
- Pippa Coulter – Specialist Editor, Content Library
- Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor, Insights
- Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor, Quality
- Michelle Harrison – Editorial Assistant
Our core principles
All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.
In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.
We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.
We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.
Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.
The Information Standard certification scheme
You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.
It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.
Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.
British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards
We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.
If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can write to us:
Health Content Team
15-19 Bloomsbury Way