What is a stroke?


A stroke is a brain attack. It can be fatal.

A stroke happens when a blockage such as a clot blocks the blood flow
to the brain, or when a burst blood vessel bleeds into the brain.

ischaemic stroke


haemorrhagic stroke

During a stroke, the cells in the affected part of the brain start to die and that part of the brain cannot work properly. This can affect a person’s ability to walk, talk, eat, see, read, socialise or do things they were able to do before the stroke.

Many people with stroke may also have fatigue or problems with remembering, understanding or thinking properly.


Different parts of the brain control a person’s movements, senses, emotions
and intellectual functions. The effects of stroke depend on which part of the brain is damaged and how severe the damage is.

Disabilities from stroke range from slight to severe. Some people make a speedy
recovery and return to their normal lives. Others have disabilities that may improve with time and can be managed. For many, disabilities may last a lifetime. A small number of people will need full time medical care.


Anyone can have a stroke. Although strokes often happen to older people, a quarter of all strokes in New Zealand occur in people of working age or younger – even children and babies have strokes.

Stroke is largely preventable, yet each year about 9,000 people in this country have a stroke. This number would be more than halved if all the recommended actions to reduce stroke risks were taken in the community.

More frequently asked questions about stroke

What is stroke leaflet

Download this information as a pdf file, or order a copy of our leaflet.