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How to spot a stroke and act F.A.S.T.

GEHA | May 3, 2021

Everyday health Health and wellness How to's
The faster a stroke is treated, the less damage it may cause.

If you suspect someone is having a stroke, reacting quickly can lessen the brain damage a stroke may cause.

The best stroke treatment options are only available in the first three hours after an episode. One easy way to find out if someone is having a stroke is to act F.A.S.T.

F = Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?

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

S = Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?

T = Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately

Calling 9-1-1 is essential, because the medical staff that arrive with the ambulance can start treatment right away and the hospital response will start quicker as well. Once at the hospital, the person having a stroke with have a brain scan to determine the type of stroke.

An ischemic stroke happens with blood clots block flow to brain. This can also be caused by fatty deposits and is treated by a medicine that breaks up the clots. Eighty percent of strokes are ischemic. They usually doesn’t last long and the damage typically isn’t permanent, but people who have had one ischemic stroke are at elevated risk of having another.

When blood vessels burst in the brain, blood builds up and damages brain tissue, leading to a hemorrhagic stroke. If the patient has a hemorrhagic stroke, doctors will try to stop the bleeding and control it. This may be done with blood pressure medicines or surgery, depending on the cause and severity of the bleeding.

The F.A.S.T. method is helpful for identifying a stroke in others. Here are some stroke symptoms that you may personally experience. These symptoms will arrive suddenly.

  • Numbness or weakness in the face or extremities, particularly on just one side of the body.
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or struggling to understand other’s speech.
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Struggling to walk, loss of balance, lack of coordination or dizziness.
  • Severe headache with unknown cause.

Making these heart-healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of having another stroke or prevent one from occurring.

  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Keep healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels

“Stroke.”, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 4 May, 2018.
“Stroke: Signs and Symptoms.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 August, 2020.
“Stroke Treatment.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 November, 2019.
“About stroke.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 January, 2020.