How to tell if it's a stroke and what you can do to help

Posted by Stephanie Welle, C.N.S.
September 21, 2012

Many emergencies give you warning signs before they get to a life-threatening level. For example, heart attacks often come after chest pain and allergic-looking reactions such as hives or swelling. But stroke symptoms arise suddenly, leaving you a small window of time to react effectively. It is vitally important to act quickly if you suspect that someone you are with is having a stroke.

Symptoms that might signal a stroke include:

  • weakness, numbness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • sudden difficulties in speaking or understanding
  • visual impairment affecting one or both eyes
  • issues with balance, dizziness or walking
  • overwhelming headaches with no clear cause

A simple way to tell if someone is having a stroke is to complete the FAST test:

  • F (Face). Have the person smile. Is it abnormal or drooping on one side?
  • A (Arm). Have the person extend their arms straight out at their sides. Does one arm drop downward?
  • S (Speech). Is his or her speech slurred?
  • T (Time). If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, it is time to call 911.

If the suspected stroke victim stops breathing, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and turn their head to the side if he or she begins vomiting, to prevent choking. Also, be sure to keep anyone who may be having a stroke from eating or drinking.

The important thing to remember is that time is of the essence. Always seek medical attention immediately if you think someone you are with may be experiencing a stroke.

<< Part 1: What is a stroke and what does it do to me?? | Part 3: Who is most at risk for a stroke? >>

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