Learn stroke warning signs and get emergency help ASAP if you or someone you know has stroke symptoms. Acting fast when stroke warning signs occur saves lives.
Every year, about 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke, and 140,000 die from the “brain attack,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of strokes are ischemic, meaning blood flow to the brain is blocked due to narrowed arteries, blood clots, or plaque from heart disease.
The rest are hemorrhagic strokes, the result of bleeding into the brain. But, whatever the cause, there are almost always stroke warning signs.
By understanding how to recognize a stroke is occurring, you can seek emergency medical care for yourself or someone you observe who appears to be having a stroke.
Not only can a stroke be life-threatening, but stroke is also a leading cause of serious, long-term disability, the CDC points out. It’s crucial not to hesitate or second guess yourself if there are any stroke warning signs. Get help immediately.
We can’t emphasize this enough: Think F.A.S.T. about stroke warning signs
To remember stroke warning signs, the American Stroke Association urges learning this list of common stroke symptoms by remembering them as F.A.S.T.
- F for Face. Look at your face in the mirror or at a person who may be having a stroke. Ask the person to smile and see if the smile is uneven. Is one side of the face drooping or numb?
- A for Arm. Is one arm weak or numb? If both arms are raised, does one arm drift downward?
- S for Speech. Is speech slurred or hard to understand? Can the person speak at all? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence such as: “It’s a pretty day.”
- T for Time to Call 9-1-1. Observed any stroke signs? Get emergency medical help immediately.
These symptoms can also be warning signs of a stroke
A sudden, severe headache, often described as the worst headache a person has ever experienced, can also be a symptom of a stroke, especially the hemorrhagic type. In addition, the CDC notes numbness or weakness in any part of the body, especially on one side, may indicate a stroke.
Experiencing confusion out of the blue and being unable to understand what someone is telling you indicates a likely stroke, too. Sudden vision problems, dizziness, and loss of balance or coordination may be warning signs of a stroke.
Whenever any stroke symptoms are present, make a note of the time the problems started so you can share the information with doctors. Whether the symptoms go away or not, call 9-1-1.
The quicker you act, the better the chance of not only surviving a stroke but also preventing long-term disability. In fact, doctors often note “time lost can be brain lost,” when it comes to a stroke, the American Stroke Association points out.
Emergency medical care for stroke includes working to restore blood flow to the brain in the case of ischemic stroke or, if a hemorrhagic stroke is occurring, carrying out procedures to control bleeding and reducing pressure in the brain.
All stroke warning signs need fast medical attention
Transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, are often called mini-strokes. TIAs and strokes have the same signs and symptoms, except that a TIA usually lasts fewer than two hours. Because symptoms of TIAs tend to go away quickly, it can be easy to ignore them or shrug them off as not important.
But that can be a serious and even life-threatening mistake.
Although a person might only have one TIA in his or her lifetime, a TIA is a warning sign that a full-blown stroke could be ahead. What’s more, it may not be possible to tell whether you or someone you observe is having a stroke or a TIA.
Bottom line: All stroke-like symptoms require medical care and evaluation, no matter how long they last, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute emphasizes.
February 09, 2023
Janet O’Dell, RN