Stroke FAQ

A stroke is a medical condition in which a region of the brain is cut off from the blood supply. This is an extremely serious condition requiring urgent medical treatment.

This article aims to address frequently asked questions related to strokes. If you ever suspect you or anyone else around you is having a stroke, seek medical help immediately.

What happens when you have a stroke?

There are two main types of strokes, each with different causes and symptoms- ischaemic and hemorrhagic strokes. 

Ischaemic strokeis the most common of these and occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. This clot usually develops in areas where fatty deposits have built up, causing the artery to be narrow and constricted. 

Irregular beating of the heart, also known as atrial fibrillation, can also cause the formation of blood clots in the heart. When this clot breaks up, it can travel into the blood vessels supplying the heart and obstruct the flow. 

Haemorrhagic stroke is much less common than ischaemic stroke, andoccurs when blood vessels inside the skull burst, causing bleeding in the brain. The main cause for this type of stroke is high blood pressure, which results in excessive force being applied to the brain’s arteries, and can cause the vessels to weaken and then rupture. Brain aneurysms can also cause hemorrhagic stroke.1

What are the first signs of a stroke coming on?

The NHS use the acronym FAST to establish the signs of a stroke occurring, and this can be useful in identifying the onset of a stroke effectively and efficiently:

F - FACE: the face may have dropped on one side, the individual may be unable to smile, as well as their mouth or eye having dropped.

A - ARMS: if the individual lifts both arms, they may not be able to keep them there. There may be weakness or numbness in one of their arms.

S - SPEECH: the individual may have slurred speech or make incoherent sentences; they may not be able to talk at all or have trouble understanding what you’re saying.

T - TIME: you have to act fast and call for medical help as soon as you recognise these symptoms.1

Can you recover mentally from a stroke?

Over time, the emotional and behavioural effects of a stroke tend to improve. Following a stroke, feelings of irritability, confusion or anger are common, as well as developing anxiety and depression. This is due to the impact of a stroke on brain regions associated with emotional processing. In recovery from stroke, it’s all about giving the effects time and understanding that the recovery process is different for all stroke survivors.2 

Can a stroke cause psychotic behaviour?

5% of stroke victims may suffer psychotic symptoms (hallucinations or delusions). A hallucination is defined as perceiving something that isn’t there through any of your senses - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or even feeling something that isn’t there. A delusion is a strong belief about something that is not occurring or not true, such as thinking someone is trying to harm them or spy on them. These can be caused by vision loss or damage to specific brain regions affected by the stroke.3

How long does it take to recover after a stroke?

The recovery time is very different for all individuals depending on a variety of factors including the type of stroke, the time taken before treatment is received and past medical history. Some individuals may face long-lasting problems that require rehabilitation after hospital discharge, with a range of specialists, from occupational to speech and language therapists.1

Can your brain heal after a stroke?

The brain is an extraordinary organ that is able to form new connections after an experience or learning new things. When a stroke damages a part of the brain, neurons in this region become damaged, and connections are destroyed. When this happens, the brain can reorganise itself and form new neuronal pathways in a process known as neuroplasticity. Sometimes these new neuronal connections can replace the functionof old, destroyed connections. This means that certain skills lost due to the stroke, such as motor skills, can be relearnt throughout the rehabilitation process. Therefore, to some extent, the brain can heal itself after a stroke, and this healing is most effective in combination with consistent rehabilitation practices.4

What helps a person with a stroke?

Given that all stroke survivors have different experiences, the interventions and treatments that can be useful to them will vary. A range of specialists are put together as part of the rehabilitation process for any given individual, and will likely include speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, doctors and other professionals. 

With respect to what an individual can do for themselves following a stroke, this is centred around lifestyle choices, such as eating a well-balanced diet, avoiding stress and following the recommendations of health care professionals. 

The recovery process can be long and its repetitive nature can be overwhelming. It is important to properly process and understand these feelings, as well as talk to those close to you, to protect your mental health and not hinder the recovery process.

Can a stroke be treated or cured?

Strokes can be treated or even cured if medical treatment is sought as soon as possible. Following an ischaemic stroke, getting to the hospital within the first three hours of the onset of symptoms gives an individual the best chance at recovery. Patients that manage this are likely to receive tPA - tissue plasminogen activator, a drug that breaks up blood clots. tPA has been shown to improve outcomes for stroke patients, allowing some individuals to make partial or even full recoveries. Blood thinners, for example aspirin, can also be used. 

For haemorrhagic strokes, time is once again an extremely important factor in determining the outcome of the patient. However, in this instance, surgical intervention is usually involved, which makes the immediate recovery process slightly more complicated.5 

What foods should stroke victims avoid?

Following a stroke, patients are encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet in order to avoid the risk factors associated with stroke. This means avoiding foods that increase blood pressure (such as high salt foods) or increase cholesterol (fried or processed foods). The consumption of alcohol should also be limited.

A Mediterranean diet has been encouraged for stroke victims, with research indicating it lowers the risk of strokes.6

Do you give food after a stroke?

Immediately after a stroke, food should be avoided until the individual has been seen by a medical specialist. First, patients may require surgical treatment to stop the bleeding, and food cannot typically be consumed within a certain period before this. Second, the stroke may have caused damage to the brain region associated with the swallowing reflex, and this may cause the individual to choke, which can be potentially fatal. 


  1. Stroke [Internet]. 2019. Available from:
  2. Emotional Effects of Stroke [Internet]. Available from:
  3. Hallucinations and delusions [Internet]. Stroke Association. Available from:
  4. Maher C. Can the Brain Heal Itself After a Stroke? Yes! Here's How [Internet]. Flint Rehab. 2020. Available from:
  5. Treat and Recover from Stroke [Internet]. CDC. 2022. Available from:,long%2Dterm%20or%20lifelong%20disabilities.
  6. Paterson K, Myint P, Jennings A, Bain L, Lentjes M, Khaw K et al. Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Incident Stroke in a Population With Varying Cardiovascular Disease Risk Profiles. Stroke [Internet]. 2018;49(10):2415-2420. Available from:

Aisha Yasin

Biomedical Science - Biomedical Sciences, General, Lancaster University, England

"I am a recent biomedical science graduate, with ambitions to go on to do post-graduate medicine. During my biomedical science degree I have done a variety of modules including anatomy, physiology, clinical biochemistry and many more... Currently working as a healthcare assistant for P&O Cruises" presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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