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5 Stroke Signs That Could Save Someone's Life

October 24, 2017 | Dr. Daniel Kassavin

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FAST-1.jpgIf you’re wondering if someone is suffering a stroke, just think F.A.S.T. The first letter in each of the words make for an easy way to remember the typical stroke signs: Face, Arm, Speech and Time. Knowing the signs will also prepare you for what you can do to save a life.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot (ischemic) or ruptures (hemorrhagic). When someone has a stroke — time is of the essence. The longer it takes to get a stroke victim the care he or she needs, the more brain damage will be done. “Time is brain” is the mantra doctors use because brain cells die within minutes.

According to researchers at the National Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting approximately 800,000 people each year. What’s scary is that a recent survey by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association found 35% of American adults experienced a symptom consistent with a warning or "mini" stroke, but did not seek help. Research also shows women are more likely than men to have a stroke.

Here are the five stroke signs that could help you save someone’s life.

FACE

The first thing you want to look at if you think someone is having a stroke is their face. Ask the person to smile. Look to see if one side of their face is drooping, or if the smile is lopsided.

Facial paralysis occurs during a stroke when nerves that control the muscles in the face are damaged in the brain.

ARMS

You should also ask the person to raise their arms. If one arm drifts downward, that’s a sign of a stroke. The person may also complain of numbness. The numbness may spread throughout one side of the body.

SPEECH

Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. For example, you could have them say, “The mouse ran up the clock.” Is their speech slurred or strange?

TIME

Don’t waste any time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Doctors are even using telestroke technology to save time when treating stroke victims. A live-stream camera enables specialists to remotely assess stroke patients and direct emergency room doctors in the critical moments following a stroke.

HEADACHE

Another sign of stroke is a severe headache that comes on quickly, and without warning. As many as 60% of stroke victims experience a headache. It may be accompanied by dizziness or vomiting.

Depending on the severity of the stroke and how long blood flow to the brain is interrupted, a stroke can cause temporary or permanent disability. But remembering four letters (F.A.S.T) and three numbers (911) could be the key to saving a life. The sooner you recognize the signs and get help, the better the chance for recovery.

If you think you or someone you love is experiencing stroke symptoms, get to your nearest emergency room.

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