Skip to main content

Stroke care: John Nasseff Neuroscience Institute

Act FAST for stroke

Use the FAST test to recognize and respond to the signs of stroke.

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs (independently or together), call 9-1-1 immediately.

Source: National Stroke Association

More than 795,000 Americans will have a stroke — or brain attack — this year, and 133,000 cases will be fatal. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

A stroke happens when blood and oxygen flow to the brain is stopped or interrupted due to a ruptured or blocked blood vessel. This can cause damage to the brain.

Through prevention, education and treatment, Allina Health is working to lower these numbers and improve a patient's chances of recovering from a stroke with fewer complications.

Sandra Hanson, MD, Stroke Program medical director for Allina Health, explains more about stroke in these short videos.



What Is a Stroke?
Symptoms and Signs
Risk Factors and Prevention
Emergency room treatment of a stroke

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, What You Need To Know About Stroke, neuro-ahc-14117; National Stroke Association
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
First Published: 05/15/2008
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2008

Stroke care locations

The Remote Presence RP-7® Robot allows a stroke expert to examine patients at an Allina hospital in greater Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

Telehealth brings expert stroke care close to home

Through the Allina Telehealth Network, hospitals in greater Minnesota or western Wisconsin have 24-hour access to stroke care experts.

The Remote Presence RP-7® Robot allows a stroke expert at Abbott Northwestern Hospital or United Hospital to examine a patient who may be miles away.

At Allina Health, all of our hospitals are deemed stroke ready. This includes offering immediate stroke intervention and management using clot busting (thrombolytics) medications. All sites have access to stroke neurology specialists either in person or via tele-stroke 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

Four of the Allina Health system hospitals have achieved The Joint Commission (TJC) certification as Primary Stroke Centers demonstrating a focus on performance improvement and excellence in quality indicators for optimal stroke care.

In addition to Primary Stroke Center certification, United and Abbott Northwestern Hospitals have the ability to provide advanced stroke care, including neuroendovascular interventions for emergent mechanical thrombectomy.

John Nasseff Neuroscience Institute at Allina Health

Primary Stroke Centers:

Stroke Ready Hospitals:

Stroke risk factors

Stroke signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of stroke may last a short time and disappear. Don't delay in getting help. A stroke is a medical emergency.

If you have any of the following, call 911 right away:

  • weakness: sudden or temporary weakness, numbness or paralysis in an arm, hand, leg or facial muscles, usually on one side of the body
  • vision problems: sudden blurred double vision or dimness in one or both eyes
  • confusion: sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding language, or thinking
  • loss of balance: sudden clumsiness, loss of balance or dizziness
  • headache: sudden severe headache (the worst headache of your life).

Risk factors increase your chance of having a stroke. There are two types of risk factors: those you cannot control and those you can.

Stroke risks you cannot control

The following risk factors are those you cannot control:

  • age: Your chance of having a stroke increases with your age.
  • gender: Men have more strokes than women.
  • race: Blacks, Latinos and Asians are at higher risk for stroke than Caucasians.
  • family history (genetics): A history of heart disease or stroke can increase your risk.
  • history of stroke/transient ischemic attack (TIA): If you have already had a stroke or TIA, you are at greater risk of having another stroke.

Stroke risks you can control

The following risk factors are those you can control:

  • high blood pressure: High blood pressure puts stress on your blood vessel walls. This can lead to stroke from blood clots or bleeding. Blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high blood pressure. (If you have high blood pressure, have your blood pressure checked every year and follow your doctor's treatment plan.)
  • atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) causes your heart to beat too quickly and out of rhythm. Blood can pool in your heart and form clots. (If you have atrial fibrillation, follow your doctor's treatment plan.)
  • carotid artery disease Your carotid arteries carry blood to your brain. When plaque (a fatty substance) builds up in these neck arteries, it increases the stroke risk. (If you have carotid artery disease, your doctor may suggest surgery, a stent, or other treatment plan.)
  • high cholesterol: When plaque (a fatty substance) builds up in your artery walls, blood can't travel to your heart.
    • When too much LDL builds up on your artery walls, plaque forms and blocks blood flow in your vessels leading to your heart, legs and brain. This can cause heart disease, peripheral artery disease and strokes.
    • HDL helps to get rid of extra cholesterol from your blood and tissue. This may prevent or reverse blood vessel problems by taking the cholesterol from the plaque.
    Keep your total cholesterol to less than 200 mg/dL. (If you have high cholesterol, follow your doctor's treatment plan.)
  • diabetes: People who have diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. (If you have diabetes, follow your doctor's treatment plan. If you have prediabetes, talk to your doctor about how you can lower your risk for developing diabetes.)
  • smoking: Tobacco use damages blood vessel walls, clogs arteries, raises blood pressure and makes your heart work harder. (If you smoke, quit. After five years, your stroke risk is the same as someone who has never smoked. Ask your doctor for information about quitting smoking.)
  • alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure, cause heart failure and lead to stroke. (Do not drink excessively. Ask your doctor for help if necessary.)
  • extra weight. Carrying extra weight strains your circulatory system. It also makes you more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. (If you need to lose weight, talk with your doctor about a nutrition and exercise plan.)
  • physical inactivity. Lack of exercise increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. (If you do not have a regular exercise routine, talk with your doctor before you start one.)

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, What You Need To Know About Stroke, neuro-ahc-14117; American Stroke Association
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
First Published: 05/15/2008
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2008

Rehabilitation and ongoing support

Understanding Stroke

This manual provides vital information about stroke for patients and their families. It includes a special section on stroke recovery and rehabilitation (rehab).

Stroke rehabilitation

Those who have limitations after a stroke find rehabilitation can help improve their function. With proper care you can regain skills and learn new ways to accomplish familiar tasks.

Care Navigation Help Desk

When you or a loved one has many medical needs, trying to determine how to get help and what services exist can be difficult. We are committed to going beyond your medical needs — making it easier to stay in control, maintain independence, have peace of mind, and enjoy life.

Geriatric Psychiatry Program

As one grows older, conditions like stroke can disturb the ability to function or cope. Allina Health Mental Health's Geriatric Psychiatry Program involves families as their loved ones are cared for in the safe settings of United Hospital or Unity Hospital.

What to do after a stroke

If you had a stroke, it is important that you follow your health care team's directions for medicines, healthful diet, exercise and controlling risk factors. Keep all appointments with health care providers. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, ask your doctor.

Stroke support groups

Allina Health stroke support groups

Ongoing support groups in these Minnesota cities welcome stroke survivors and their care partners:

Tai Chi for persons with strokes, brain injuries or movement disorders

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute offers this program specifically designed for people who have experienced a stroke, a brain injury or a movement disorder, and for their care partners.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, What You Need To Know About Stroke, neuro-ahc-14117
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
First Published: 05/15/2008
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2008

Beating the odds: Jaime Anderson's story

Jaime Anderson's life took a turn she never expected one evening in August 2012. As she got ready to go to her sister's birthday dinner, Anderson, age 25, had a massive stroke. After three brain surgeries that saved her life, and receiving initial inpatient rehabilitation at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – United Hospital, she was referred to Courage Center to continue her recovery.



Making a comeback from stroke: Ken's story

Coon Rapids Firefighter Ken Boelter continues to fight one of the toughest battles of his life. A stroke paralyzed the left side of his body. But experts at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Mercy Hospital say he's making great strides.

An artful recovery from stroke: Frank's story

Painting has always been Frank Hoffman's means of intellectual and artistic expression. After suffering a stroke, he now includes his artwork as a means of therapy.

Hoffman had his stroke while attending a party in St. Paul. He was sitting next to his wife when he realized that something wasn't right.




Is it a stroke? Richard's story

Richard Norvold's first clue that something was wrong was a persistent swishing noise in his left ear.

An active 73-year-old who works six days a week at his own business, Norvold was told it was probably nothing to worry about -- until he noticed his left heel was dragging.

"That's when we went to the emergency room," he says.

Wrestling with stroke: A teen's story

When Jacob McLellan's parents let him go to the Minnesota state high school wrestling tournament, little did they know that this decision may have saved Jacob's life.

While at the tournament, 16-year-old Jacob had a stroke.



Teen strokes on the rise: Bailey's story

Bailey Carlson attends physical therapy five days a week. Her hands and wrists often get tired during exercises, but she's come a long way after having a stroke when she was 16 years old.