Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Dr. Dre Reveals He Had Strokes After Brain Aneurysm

Here’s what you need to know about aneurysms and hemorrhagic strokes

spinner image Dr. Dre attends The 2023 Met Gala
MAY 1: Dr. Dre attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City.

Hip-hop artist and Grammy Award–winning producer Dr. Dre said that after being hospitalized for a brain aneurysm in 2021, he had three strokes over a two-week period.

Dre, 59, spoke about his health issues in a March 14 interview on the podcast This Life of Mine with James Corden on SiriusXM.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

He said he woke up feeling pain behind his right ear.

“It almost felt like the worst pain I ever felt,” he told Corden. “I got up and I went on about my day, and I thought that I could just lay down and take a nap.”

Luckily, his son and a female friend told him he needed help. They took him to urgent care, where he was sent on to a hospital.

“Next thing you know, I’m blacking out,” he said.

A weak hose ready to burst

A cerebral aneurysm is a weak area in a blood vessel that usually enlarges, according to the American Heart Association. Sometimes that weakened blood vessel will bulge out and rupture, causing a hemorrhagic stroke.

Thabele Leslie-Mazwi, M.D., a professor of neurology and Warren and Jermaine Magnuson Endowed Chair in Medicine for Neurosciences with the University of Washington School of Medicine, said this type of stroke is extremely dangerous. When an aneurysm ruptures, blood leaks out, and symptoms, like a terrible headache, can ensue, says Leslie-Mazwi, who adds that the headache Dre experienced is a classic symptom of hemorrhagic stroke.

“It’s like a little tiny explosion that goes off in your head when the aneurysm ruptures,” he says.

People can have different reactions after the rupture. Some may try to lie down in hopes they’ll feel better. Some people vomit. Some people lose consciousness.

“Sometimes [people] die on the spot,” Leslie-Mazwi said. “It depends on how bad the rupture is, how much blood leaks or the pressure is.”

He said when people delay getting care, things only get worse. The blood that leaks out into the brain causes a cascading host of problems, including irritation of unruptured blood vessels.

“I always use the analogy of stepping on a garden hose,” Leslie-Mazwi said. “When those vessels get irritated they spasm down, they tighten down, and it’s like stepping on a garden hose and limiting the flow to your sprinkler.” 

When those vessels are tightened, blood can’t get through them fast enough to supply the brain with the blood it needs, causing further damage, including further strokes.

“If you go to the hospital and you survived that initial rupture, the major cause of longer-term challenges is that you had big strokes, ischemic strokes, after your hemorrhagic stroke because of this blood vessel tightening phenomenon.”

Ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke, are caused by a blocked vessel, as opposed to the burst blood vessel that occurs in hemorrhagic strokes.

Advances in hemorrhagic stroke treatment

The Compton, L.A.–born rapper, media mogul and philanthropist, whose real name is Andre Young, said he spent two weeks in the ICU after his aneurysm, where he was in and out of consciousness.

Dre did not say what types of strokes he had in the hospital, but he has said doctors didn’t expect him to survive.

“You don’t know how lucky you are,” he said doctors told him.

In a 2022 interview on the Workout the Doubt podcast, Dre said the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles where he was admitted didn’t allow visitors due to COVID, but they allowed his family to visit him so they could say goodbye.

Dre didn’t discuss details of his treatment, but Leslie-Mazwi said treatments have advanced dramatically in the last few decades and doctors now have a range of tools to use. Previously, doctors needed to open the skull to perform surgery to treat an aneurysm bleed, but now they can operate using endovascular treatment, going through the groin or the wrist.


AARP® Vision Plans from VSP™

Exclusive vision insurance plans designed for members and their families

See more Insurance offers >

Diagnoses of aneurysm

The vast majority of people don’t know they have an aneurysm, says Leslie-Mazwi, who is also an American Stroke Association national volunteer expert.

Aneurysms are not uncommon, but for most people they never cause a problem or even symptoms.

Each year 30,000 people, most of them in their 50s or 60s, experience a ruptured aneurysm. “That’s the worst possible outcome for an aneurysm, because it causes so much damage to the brain when it does [rupture],” Leslie-Mazwi said.

Sometimes people fall or have another reason to get an MRI scan of the brain, and doctors see the aneurysm on the image. In such cases, doctors calculate the risk of it bleeding and can start treatment if they think the risk is high enough.

Although most people with aneurysms are asymptomatic, occasionally the aneurysm will get so big that it starts to press on other parts of the brain. In such cases, the symptoms depend on where in the brain this is happening. For example, the enlarged vessel can press on a nerve to the eye and cause vision problems or press against the brain’s temporal lobe and cause seizures, but these types of symptoms are uncommon.

“It’s much more frequent that people never know they have it and then it bleeds,” Leslie-Mazwi said. Based on Dre’s interviews, this may well have been true in his case.

Signs and symptoms of hemorrhagic stroke

Symptoms of hemorrhagic stroke can be the same or can differ from those of ischemic stroke. 

“Hemorrhagic stroke warning signs are the same as those for ischemic stroke or stroke where there is reduced blood flow due to a clot,” said John M. Hanna, M.D., vascular neurologist and medical director of stroke at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, New Jersey. Doctors use the acronym B.E.F.A.S.T for the most common signs of stroke:

​B – balance loss​

E – eyesight change

F – face drooping​

A – arm weakness

S – speech difficulty​

T – time to call 911

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134


Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

But based on news reports, Leslie-Mazwi said Dre likely had a type of stroke called subarachnoid hemorrhage. “That’s a little bit different because the tissue of the brain, the envelope of the brain, is the most affected.”

Often this type of stroke doesn’t cause the classic symptoms. People may have double vision or lose consciousness, or experience vomiting or the terrible headache Dre reported. The main symptom is often a terrible headache, sometimes called a thunderclap headache.

“It’s these sorts of global symptoms because the blood is all over the brain’s surface,” Leslie-Mazwi said.

Prevention of hemorrhagic stroke

The most important risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke that people can control is high blood pressure, Hanna said.

Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and only 1 in 4 of them have their blood pressure under control.

Dre said that he didn’t realize he had hypertension because he had always taken good care of his health.

“I asked questions like ‘What could I have done to prevent this?’ and nobody could give me an answer. I had no idea that I had high blood pressure or anything like that because I’m on my health s---,” he told Corden. “I’m lifting weights, I’m running, I’m doing everything I can to keep myself healthy. I said, ‘Would that have prevented it if I had worked out a little bit harder or ate different or something like that?’ It’s like, no. That’s hereditary. High blood pressure in Black men, that’s just what it is. They call it the silent killer. You just have no idea, so, you know, you have to keep your s--- checked.”

More men than women have high blood pressure, according to the CDC, and 56 percent of Black adults have it, which is the highest percentage of any group.

In addition to controlling blood pressure, exercising regularly, staying at a healthy weight, not smoking and not drinking too much alcohol are the most important ways to prevent an aneurism from bursting, Hanna said. He added that some factors that increase risk can’t be changed, including hereditary factors, connective tissue disease and age.

Dre’s recovery

By all accounts, Dre seems to have bounced back from his time in the hospital. He performed with other hip-hop legends a year later to great acclaim in his Superbowl LVI halftime show and received the first Dr. Dre Global Impact Award at the 2023 Grammy Awards. On March 19, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“I’m not saying, ‘OK, I’m just gonna go f------ crazy because who knows if the lights are gonna come out tomorrow.’ I don’t think about it like that,” he said. “I just think it was something that just happened to me. It definitely makes you appreciate being alive. That’s for sure.”

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?