The ability to recognize the signs of a stroke, also known as a brain attack, can be the difference between life and death. You may be reluctant to seek medical help if you aren’t sure whether someone’s having a stroke, but people who get treated sooner have a major advantage.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops and the brain cells in the area begin to deplete. Symptoms of a stroke differ depending on the area of the brain that is affected by the loss of blood supply and symptoms can include changes in sensation or motor control. Some people may fully recover from strokes, but over two-thirds of stroke survivors are left with some type of disability. Being treated within 4.5 hours of symptoms can give someone a greater chance of a full recovery.
Stroke symptoms are unique because they come on suddenly and without warning. They also depend on how much brain tissue lacks a correct level of blood supply. For example, someone who has only had a mild stroke may experience temporary weakness in the arms or legs. Meanwhile, a more severe stroke may result in being permanently paralyzed on one side of the or impact speech.
The National Stroke Association suggests using the term “FAST” to help you recognize common stroke symptoms. FAST is an acronym that can help you quickly recognize the warning signs of a stroke.
F for Face: If you notice a droop on one side of a person’s face, this is a warning sign. Ask the person to smile and see if one side is drooping. That side of the face may also be numb, and the smile may appear to be uneven.
A for Arms: Arm numbness or weakness is also a symptom of a stroke. Ask a person to raise their arms if you are unsure. If the arms drop down or aren’t steady, this is a warning sign.
S for Speech Difficulty: People experiencing a stroke may slur words or have trouble speaking at all. Speech may be incomprehensible, and this is an indication of a stroke. Ask them to repeat a simple sentence and look for any speech abnormalities.
T for Time: The best thing you can do after someone has experienced a stroke, is to act fast. If a person is showing these symptoms, call 911 immediately and get them to the hospital.
Other symptoms may include the sudden onset of:
- Weakness or paralysis in any part of the body
- The sensation of numbness or “pins and needles” anywhere in the body
- Trouble walking or loss of balance and coordination
- Visual changes including blurred vision, trouble with eyesight in one or both eyes or involuntary eye movements
- A severe headache that is typically unlike any headaches a person has had in the past
- Loss of sensation in any or all parts of the body
- Memory loss
- Behavior changes
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty swallowing
If anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms it is important to remember to act FAST. Timing is everything when it comes to a stroke and it can mean the difference between life and death. Don’t delay calling 911 immediately. You may help save someone’s life or reduce the chances of long-term disability.