Sometimes called a “brain attack,” a stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either when a blood clot blocks a vessel (ischemic stroke) or when a vessel weakens or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Brief interruptions in blood flow, known as transient ischemic attacks (also known as ministrokes), can mimic stroke symptoms.\nWhen blood flow is interrupted, brain cells don’t receive enough oxygen and begin to die. Depending on what part of the brain is damaged, a stroke can cause problems with:\n\nMemory\nSpeech\nMuscle control\nOther functions\n\nAccording to the National Stroke Association, an estimated 800,000 people experience a stroke every year. The problem is the leading cause of disability in American adults and the fifth leading cause of death in the country.\nAct Immediately\nFortunately, ischemic strokes \u2014 the most common type of stroke \u2014 respond to immediate treatment with a drug called IV-tPA, which can dissolve blood clots that block blood flow to the brain. Research has shown that some patients who were treated with IV-tPA within three hours of developing stroke symptoms were at least 30 percent more likely to recover with little or no disability, compared to those who didn’t receive this drug. Because IV-tPA must be administered as soon as possible, it’s imperative that you seek immediate medical attention if you think you or a loved one is having a stroke.\nYet women are much less likely to receive this crucial treatment, possibly because they often experience different stroke symptoms than men. The latter tend to exhibit more “classic” symptoms. Here’s the difference:\nClassic Stroke Symptoms\n\nSudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, particularly on one side of the body\nSudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding speech\nSudden difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination\nSudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes\nSudden severe headache with no known cause\n\nOther Stroke Symptoms\nAlthough those are the symptoms that most people commonly experience, research has shown women are 33 percent less likely to report such “classic” stroke symptoms when they arrive at the emergency room than their male counterparts. Some people \u2014 and women in particular \u2014 are more apt to experience other, vague symptoms that could signal a stroke. These include:\n\nLightheadedness, fainting, or loss of consciousness\nDifficulty breathing or shortness of breath\nGeneral weakness\nAgitation\nConfusion, unresponsiveness, or disorientation\nSudden behavioral changes\nHallucinations\nNausea or vomiting\nPain\nSeizures\nHiccups\n\nBecause such symptoms are often associated with other problems, people who exhibit them may not be aware that they are experiencing a stroke. If you think that you or a loved one are having a stroke, call 911 immediately.\nContact\u00a0the\u00a0UPMC Stroke Institute\u00a0to schedule an appointment or ask a question at 412-232-8840.