How Do You Know If Someone Is Having a Stroke?

Time is of the essence when a stroke occurs. Here are the signs to look for.

When someone has a stroke, recovery can be greatly impacted by how quickly medical treatment is received. Knowing what the symptoms of stroke look like can help you determine when someone needs help. 

How can you tell if someone may be having a stroke? Remember the word FAST! This acronym was created by the National Stroke Association to identify the warning signs of stroke.

F – Facial drooping: Ask the person to smile. Is one side of the face drooping or hard to move?

A – Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift down?

S – Speech difficulties: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Do you notice slurred speech or trouble forming words?

T – Time: Time lost is brain lost. If you notice any of the above symptoms, call 911 right away.

Other symptoms of stroke include double or blurred vision, a sudden severe headache with no known cause, sudden numbness on one side of the body, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, and arm or leg weakness. If something seems “off” with someone and you suspect it’s due to a stroke, call 911 immediately. It’s important to note that women have more strokes than men, even though many people think strokes are something that just happen to older men.

The good news is that if a stroke is due to an obstruction within a vessel supplying blood to the brain (an ischemic stroke), and the person gets to the hospital quickly enough, the clot-busting drug tPA may improve chances of recovery. According to the National Stroke Association, 87% of all strokes are ischemic.

It’s a race against the clock to administer tPA in time to improve stroke outcomes. In studies, when tPA was received within 1½ hours of the start of symptoms, up to 20% of patients showed significant improvement 90 days later. If it was given within 3 hours, about 10% of patients showed improvement.

The sooner a person having a stroke gets to a hospital, the better the odds. The most important factor in the successful treatment of stroke is getting treatment as quickly as possible.

If you suspect a stroke, always call 911. Remember, it’s important to act FAST.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 11, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Salman Wali, MD; Denis Dollard, MD

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