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Stroke Awareness Month – knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke

GEHA | May 20, 2022

Act FAST to spot stroke.

Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death and serious disability in the United States, making up more than one in four deaths, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Learn the warning signs and act fast if you suspect stroke in yourself or someone else. Time can make the difference between life and death.

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. Approximately 80% of strokes are preventable. You may be familiar with the acronym F.A.S.T. to help you recognize a stroke. The letters (Face, Arms, Speech and Time) can help you see the symptoms of an acute stroke in someone else and find help as soon as possible.


F.A.S.T. warning signs

Use the letters in F.A.S.T to spot a stroke

  • F = Face drooping — Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
  • A = Arm weakness — Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S = Speech difficulty — Is speech slurred?
  • T = Time to call 911

Other stroke symptoms

Watch for sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble Seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble Walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe Headache with no known cause

Recently, official guidance on the use of aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke shifted. People who are age 60 or older should not begin taking daily aspirin to prevent heart disease. What's more, people ages 40–59 should take daily aspirin only if they have a high risk of cardiovascular disease and have talked with their doctor about whether to start taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke. After age 75, there is little benefit in continuing daily aspirin use. "Because the chance of internal bleeding increases with age, the potential harms of aspirin use cancel out the benefits," says Michael Barry, MD, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's vice chair and director of the Informed Medical Decisions Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Regular visits to your primary care physician are important to check for signs of heart disease. Discussing your family health history with your doctor and taking care of yourself with proper nutrition and exercise are all important ways to help prevent future heart disease and stroke. If you take aspirin or statins for heart disease, do not stop taking these until speaking with your doctor.

To find an in-network health care provider near you, see our online Find Care tool.

“Stroke symptoms.” American Stroke Association.
“Aspirin Use to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease: Preventive Medication.” U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. 26 April, 2022.

The information contained herein is for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and if you have questions regarding a medical condition, regimen, or treatment you should always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice from a qualified medical professional because of information you have read herein.