If you have a stroke, the blood supply to your brain is cut off. After a few minutes without oxygen and food from your blood, your brain begins to suffer damage.

Depending on the type of stroke, you can be permanently disabled – but many people recover well.

If you have high blood pressure and smoke, you’re at a much greater risk of having a stroke.

Know the signs – think FAST

If you think you or someone else is suffering a stroke, call 111 immediately.

The sooner treatment is received, the less damage a stroke will cause.

Know the signs of a stroke - think FAST:

  • Face: Is it drooping on one side?
  • Arm: Is one arm weak?
  • Speech: Is it jumbled, slurred or lost?
  • Time to call 111.  

The Stroke Foundation website has detailed information on:

Mini-strokes – or TIAs

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – also called a ‘mini-stroke’ – has similar symptoms to a stroke. However, most people fully recover within a few minutes or an hour.

If you think you’ve had a TIA, you must see a doctor immediately. A TIA may be a warning that a stroke will follow.

You can read more about TIAs on the Stroke Foundation website:

Related websites

Health Navigator
This NZ website helps you find reliable and trustworthy health information.

The Heart Foundation

Advice on healthy eating and recipes.

  • Know Your Numbers – use this Heart Foundation website to calculate your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Video: A stroke can happen anytime

Stroke expert Dr Anna Ranta talks about the importance of the FAST campaign message - and the real difference it can make.

[Title: A stroke can happen at any time]

[Slide: The Ministry of Health went to Wellington Regional Hospital recently.

We were asking stroke export Dr Anna Ranta about the FAST awareness campaign.]

[Dr Anna Ranta sitting in her office at Wellington Regional Hospital]

My name is Anna Ranta. Im a stroke neurologist at Capital and Coast DHB, I'm also the National Clinic Leader for stroke for the Ministry of Health.

FAST stands for face, arm, speech and time.

[Animation showing examples of FAST - face, arm, speech and time]

Face, because with a stroke you can have a facial droop, you can have arm weakness in one side or the other and you can have talking problems with your speech. T stands for time to signal that if you have any of those symptoms or if you see somebody have some of those symptoms they need to call 111 straight away to get to the hospital.

[Dr Anna Ranta sitting in her office at Wellington Regional Hospital]

The time is important because we only have a number of hours to intervene when somebody has a stroke and the reason for that...

[Slide: As our interview is finishing Anna recieves an alert.]

I just noticed some reminder went off.

Do you need to attend to something?

[Slide: A stroke patient is on their way]

We've just had a FAST track done in ED, if I came through the back door?

[Shot of Dr Anna on the phone]

The ambulance is able to call ahead, so they'll notify us before the person has even arrived in the hospital and we can kick into gear and be ready and meet the person at the front desk.

[Shots of Dr Anna walking down to the Emergency Department]

And there are two general types of strokes. Either a ruptured blood vessel that causes blood flow into the brain or the blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. When the blood flow is interrupted to the brain, you don't get oxygen to the brain and the brain needs oxygen to function.

We really want people to get to us as soon as possible, ideally immediately, but we need to treat them within about 4 and half hours otherwise we've run out of time.

[Dr Anna Ranta to camera in the Emergency Department]

Ok, so we just got called for a FAST track stroke and the patient is due to arrive really now. We expect the ambulance to bring the patient in any second now.

[Shot of bed in Emergency Department]

The patient will be transferred to this bed and we will be monitoring the patient to see what their blood pressure is, address that and then very quickly move over to the CT scanner to take things from there.

[Shot of Dr Anna looking at a CT scan on the computer]

We're going to have to move out.

[Dr Anna Ranta sitting in her office]

The brain can survive for a few hours without the oxygen to that part of the brain, but once several hours go by it's just too late and so we cannot reverse the symptoms after that point.

[Shot of CT scan on the computer]

Also we know that every 15 minutes that we save actually makes a substantial difference as regards to the likelihood that people will be discharged back to their own home and independant of daily carers.

[Slide: The patient was successfully treated with clot busting medication

They went home 24 hours later.]

[Dr Anna Ranta sitting in her office]

All of these treatments we have in hospital are fantastic and it's great to see that we are increasing implementation, but of course the best way to prevent a stroke is to prevent it in the first place. And I would like people to exercise and to eat a healthy diet and to not smoke. And those are the most important things that everyone in New Zealand can do to, put us out of a job.

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