A stroke can occur when the oxygen supply to a small or large part of your brain is cut off, either by a blood clot or bleeding inside your brain. Symptoms of a stroke are usually immediately noticeable and can affect your movement, speech, and even your consciousness.

The symptoms you can have with a stroke depend a lot on where the bleed or clot has developed inside your brain. There are several common or hallmark symptoms of stroke.

You can remember these symptoms using the acronym FAST.

  • Face. Is the face drooping to one side or is the smile uneven? Is your face numb?
  • Arm weakness. Can you move both your arms? Is one weaker than the other? Does it drift down when you try to hold it up?
  • Speech. Is your speech slurred, or are you unable to form words at all?
  • Time. If you have any of the above symptoms, it’s time to call 911.

While these are the main symptoms, other signs of stroke may also include:

  • numbness
  • confusion
  • vision changes
  • difficulty walking
  • a sudden, severe headache

A mini stroke is another name for a transient ischemic attack (TIA). These attacks can feature the same signs as stroke, but they come and go quickly and may not be as severe.

Mini strokes are caused by clots, but these disruptions in the blood flow to your brain are only temporary. A TIA usually resolves within about 24 hours, but they are also an important warning sign that you are at risk of having a stroke.

Pay attention to the signs

More than 2 percent of all Americans have experienced a TIA, according to the American Stroke Association, but very few of them received medical care at the time or called 911. About 1 out of every 3 people who experience mini strokes have a full stroke later on.

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Strokes caused by clots are more common in men, while strokes that result from bleeding in the brain are more common in women. Regardless of the cause of the stroke, though, research has shown that strokes are more fatal in women than men overall.

The reason for this, experts suggest, is that symptoms tend to be more vague, and are more likely to be ignored, in women than in men. Women also experience a few additional risk factors for stroke including:

  • pregnancy
  • pre-eclampsia
  • birth control pills
  • hormone replacement therapies

A stroke can come on suddenly and severely, affecting your balance, speech, and ability to walk. Even symptoms like this that come and go, sometimes called a mini stroke, are a red flag. If you notice any of these symptoms in someone, or experience them yourself, call your local emergency services or seek emergency medical care immediately.