By: on In Healthy Living

Warning Signs of a Stroke

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and the leading cause of long term disability. They come on suddenly and usually without any advance warning. No, the symptoms happen when the person is already suffering a stroke. In a situation like this, there is a fleeting window of time to get a person medical care.

Every second counts. Detecting strokes FAST

Here’s a useful acronym to remember:


It stands for: Face drooping + Arm weakness + Speech difficulty = Time to call 911!

Here’s how to doublecheck:

  • Face – ask the person to smile.

    Does the face droop on one side? Are the muscles twitching uncontrollably? Are they bunched up and tight?

  • Arms – ask the person to raise both arms. Can he or she do it? Does one arm seem weak and drift downward under its weight? Is one arm tightening and curling up?
  • Speech – ask the person to repeat a simple phrase or say your name. Is the speech slurred or strange? Does the mouth droop? Is the person confused and disoriented?
  • Time - If you see any of these signs, waste no time calling an ambulance!

What if only some of these symptoms are present? What if they occur on both sides of the body, not just one side? What if they fluctuate or seem to go away on their own?

Call 911 anyway! If the person isn’t having a stroke, well, something else is seriously wrong. This is one situation where it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Other Stroke Signals

Look out for:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the limbs or face, particularly on one side.
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding simple questions.
  • Sudden blurred vision or blindness in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden difficulty with walking or standing upright.
  • Sudden attack of dizziness and difficulty with balance.

  • Sudden loss of coordination.
  • Sudden headache, often described as ‘the most terrible of my life’. The pain may be severe enough to trigger vomiting.

Call 911, or your country’s emergency medical services. Then watch the person and try to keep them comfortable as you wait for the ambulance. Pay attention to the time of first symptoms and what they are, and tell that to the medical personnel. This information will help them decide which treatment options to give.

Every Second Counts

A stroke is one of the most dangerous medical emergencies a person can experience. The brain can sustain permanent damage within 2 to 5 minutes of oxygen deprivation. The longer the stroke is left untreated, the greater the chance of extensive brain damage.

There is some good news. Clotbusting drugs have been proven by medical research to be effective. If they are given within three hours of the first stroke symptoms, they greatly reduce the chance of long term disability from ischemic strokes – the most common type.

Never wait more than five minutes to call an ambulance, if even only one or two of these warning signs occur. With quick and decisive action, you give medical personnel vital time to save a life.

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