A stroke occurs when a ruptured blood vessel or a blockage from a blood clot hinders or cuts off the blood supply to part of the brain. The duration of a stroke depends on the individual and the type of stroke.

Each year, around 795,000 people in the United States experience a stroke. Most strokes happen after a blockage keeps blood from traveling to an area of the brain. They may also occur after arteries in the brain rupture or begin to leak.

This article explores how long strokes last, stroke symptoms, a typical stroke recovery timeline, and prevention strategies. It also answers some common questions about stroke.

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How long a stroke lasts depends on the type of stroke and the individual. However, doctors may not be able to determine the exact duration of blood flow interruption in every person who has experienced one. The duration varies and can range from a few minutes to several days.

Ischemic stroke

Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke. They occur after blood flow to a part of the brain decreases after blood clots or other particles block a blood vessel in the brain.

Individuals may experience shorter or longer strokes depending on their overall health and how quickly they receive treatment. In one study, the average time before stroke treatment effectively restored blood flow was 6.8 hours. The longer the blockage of blood flow, the more severe the damage and symptoms someone experiences.

Hemorrhagic stroke

After ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes occur most frequently.

During a hemorrhagic stroke, a ruptured blood vessel leaks within the brain. Bleeding within the brain can damage brain tissue. A ruptured blood vessel does not properly deliver blood to a region of the brain, similar to an ischemic stroke. Additionally, leaking blood can raise pressure within the skull, which may also lead to brain tissue damage.

The symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke typically develop within minutes or hours. Generally, the pool of leaked blood on the brain enlarges within 3–12 hours, although swelling in the area can last up to 2 weeks.

Mini-stroke

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is the medical term for a mini-stroke. A TIA typically lasts only a few minutes, but it can continue for as long as 24 hours.

Mini-strokes occur when a temporary blockage disrupts the blood supply to an area of the brain. They often signal more strokes to come. Individuals who experience a mini-stroke should speak with their doctor to learn about preventing future strokes.

It is crucial to recognize the symptoms of a stroke as quickly as possible. Early detection and treatment may reduce the severity of a stroke and the amount of damage it causes.

Stroke symptoms can vary widely between individuals. However, many people will experience a few common signs of stroke, including:

A stroke is a medical emergency, a person should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if someone is experiencing stroke symptoms.

The length of time it takes to recover from a stroke depends on many factors. Receiving treatment soon after experiencing stroke symptoms may mean that someone has a faster recovery time. Individuals who are younger at the time of stroke also have a higher chance of a shortened recovery.

Experts suggest that people who have experienced a stroke may see the most improvement in the first 3 months of recovery after the stroke. After 6 months, their recovery and any improvements are likely to be slower.

However, some researchers have found that recovery can continue after 1.5 years following a stroke, although healthcare professionals have defined the crucial recovery window as within the first 3–6 months following a stroke.

The length of recovery time varies depending on the level of brain damage an individual has experienced during a stroke. People recovering from a stroke should speak with a doctor about individual recovery expectations.

Around 25% of people who have experienced a stroke will have another stroke in their lifetime. However, there are many preventive measures that may help someone avoid a first stroke or a stroke recurrence. These may include:

Below are some common questions about stroke.

How long do mini-strokes last?

Mini-strokes can last for a few minutes but can continue for up to 24 hours. Because mini-strokes can be a sign of a worse stroke to come, people who experience them should take preventive measures to reduce their chance of a more severe stroke in the future.

What are the “FAST” signs of stroke?

The FAST acronym is a helpful tool for identifying and addressing stroke symptoms. Each letter stands for:

  • Face: A person’s face shows signs of drooping or numbness, and their smile may appear lopsided.
  • Arms: One arm is weaker than the other — it may feel numb and drift downward when someone tries to raise both arms.
  • Speech: A person’s speech becomes slurred or difficult to understand.
  • Time: If a person is experiencing the symptoms above, it is time for someone to call 911.

How long does heat stroke last?

Heat stroke occurs when a person’s body temperature rises to 106°F (41.1°C) within 10–15 minutes. It can happen suddenly within a few minutes or develop gradually over a few hours or days.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain becomes disrupted or damaged. Depending on the type of stroke, it can last between a few minutes to several days.

After a stroke occurs, people recover within different timeframes that may take months or years, depending on the severity of the stroke. A healthcare professional can provide more information about individual recovery expectations.

Many preventive strategies may reduce a person’s risk of a stroke. Following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and alcohol can help. A person can speak with a doctor to learn more about ways to prevent stroke.