If you were having a stroke, would you know it? Like a heart attack, stroke happens when blood flow is blocked to an important part of your body. But it’s not your heart that’s O2 starved during a stroke—it’s your brain. Another difference between the two: Stroke doesn’t often come with a side of pain. “That’s actually one of the problems with stroke,” says Royya Modir, MD, assistant professor in the division of vascular neurology at University of California San Diego School of Medicine. “Typically, when people have pain, they come to the ER. Stroke is not always painful.”
That’s one of the many reasons it’s important to know the red flags of a stroke. The symptoms can be subtle, but they’re signals of a serious problem—your brain cells aren’t getting the oxygen they need to function and keep you alive. Every minute counts after a stroke happens, says Modir. The faster you clue in to what’s happening and seek help for a stroke, the more likely you are to survive and avoid permanent brain damage.
The key word for stroke symptoms? Sudden. “Typically, strokes don’t occur in a slow, progressive fashion. Something changes from one second to the next,” says Modir. Learn these symptoms so you can get help quickly.