When the blood flow to the brain is blocked or decreased, the brain cells in the area of lessened blood flow may die. Fortunately, treatment exists that, when received within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, can significantly decrease the damage. It's especially important, then, to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Note, however, that not all symptoms must be present to indicate a stroke. If you have any concerns, please contact a medical professional immediately.
There is a fairly common misconception that if you smell something that is not there (such as burnt toast) it is a sign of a stroke. This is not true. However, because a stroke can occur in any region of the brain, the sense of smell can be affected. Rather than smelling something that isn't there, though, it's more likely that the ability to smell anything will be hindered or that your response to smells is altered.
When a stroke occurs it often affects motor control, and one of the most obvious signs of a stroke is the sudden onset of difficulty in walking.
Motor control in your mouth can be hindered as well and you may experience difficulty speaking. Speaking may also be difficult if the area of your brain responsible for complex thought is affected.
The sudden onset of dizziness may also indicate a stroke.
Many stroke victims experience paralysis or numbness on one side of the body. Friends or family may notice a slight drooping and loss of muscle tone on one side.
If your ability to see is suddenly impaired--in other words, if your vision was fine and then, all of the sudden, it isn't--this may indicate a stroke.
Although headaches can occur for a number of reasons, a very sudden headache that is accompanied by other symptoms including facial pain or cognitive problems can be a sign of a stroke.