Can You Die From a Stroke? Unfortunately, Yes

The answer to "can you die from a stroke?" lies in the type of stroke you have, and how quickly you receive treatment.

can you die from a stroke

Can you die from a stroke? Yes, it depends on the severity and how quickly you receive treatment.

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Stroke is an emergency. When a stroke occurs, how much brain function is lost—and your ability to survive the stroke–depends on the type of stroke, its location, and how quickly the stroke is treated. Neurologists use the phrase “Time is brain” to underscore the importance of rapid treatment for ischemic stroke. The faster a blockage is opened and blood flow is restored, the better the chance of a surviving with little or no disability. The risk of a bad outcome increases six percent for every hour treatment is delayed. 

With hemorrhagic stroke, the outcome is more grim, so it’s natural to ask, “Can you die from a stroke?”

What Determines Your Prognosis?

The risk of death varies with the type of stroke a person experiences, and that risk increases with age. The prognosis after hemorrhagic stroke is bleak. About 40 percent of intracerebral hemorrhages cause death. About 10 to 15 percent of people who suffer a subarachnoid hemorrhage die before reaching the hospital; 40 percent die within the first week; and 50 percent die within the first six months.

With ischemic stroke, about nine percent of patients aged 65 to 74, 13 percent of patients aged 74 to 84, and 23 percent of patients age 84 and older die within 30 days.

Sometimes, dramatic measures are taken to decrease the risk of death—for example, temporarily removing part of the skull to allow for brain swelling. Although this procedure can halve the risk of death, a hefty percentage of patients survive only to experience severe disabilities.

The extent of your disability (if any) will be determined after the stroke has ended and your condition has been stabilized. The length of time you will need to recover from a stroke will depend on its severity. Fortunately, about 50 to 70 percent of stroke survivors are able to regain functional independence. Others are permanently disabled to various degrees.

Know the Symptoms of Sroke

Stroke symptoms often affect only one side of the body. Because each side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body, a stroke that occurs in the right side of the brain may cause symptoms on the left side, and vice versa.

  • When a clot blocks the right middle cerebral artery, symptoms may include paralysis, weakness, numbness, or loss of vision on the left side of the body.
  • If the stroke affects the right side of the brain, symptoms may include the inability to recognize the left side of the body.
  • When a clot blocks the left middle cerebral artery, symptoms will affect the right side of the body and the ability to speak and understand language.

Knowing the symptoms of stroke could save your life. They are:

  • Sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis, typically affecting only one side of the body, including or excluding the face
  • Sudden difficulty swallowing, chewing, or moving the tongue
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one eye or both eyes
  • Sudden confusion
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble walking or loss of coordination

Symptoms can also include sudden:

  • Sensation of spinning (vertigo)
  • Double vision: seeing two objects when there is only one
  • Tendency to look toward or away from the side of the body affected by weakness or partial or total paralysis
  • Inability to assemble, construct, or draw objects
  • Unawareness or neglect of the neurological deficit or the inability to recognize body parts
  • Inability to make decisions or lack of willpower
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Excruciating headache that may be accompanied by vomiting and a stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Aggressive behavior: shouting obscenities, hitting, biting and becoming agitated
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

Women are more likely than men to experience non-traditional symptoms, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness.

Don’t Wait: Call 911 Immediately

If you experience a stroke, call 911 immediately. Calling your doctor first may delay lifesaving treatment. Your chances for a good outcome are best if you travel to the hospital by ambulance. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel can begin assessment and management on the way to the hospital, saving valuable time. They know which hospitals are designated stroke centers, and they will notify hospital staff to be ready to act as soon as you arrive.

When you arrive at the Emergency Department, the doctors will work fast to confirm you are having a stroke, and if so, whether your stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. This information is essential, because the treatments for these strokes are very different.

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Holly Strawbridge

Holly Strawbridge has been managing editor of Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor and was also ME of Cleveland Clinic Women’s Heart Advisor. Previously, she contributed regularly to both publications, as well … Read More

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