Recognizing Stroke Symptoms in Your Loved Ones

You might be familiar with the symptoms of a heart attack, but what about a brain attack?

More commonly known as a stroke, these incidents happen when a blood clot or blockage prevents blood from reaching the brain, resulting in a lack of oxygen and loss of brain activity.

If not caught quickly, strokes can lead to permanent brain damage or death. In fact, strokes are one of the top five causes of death and disability in the United States annually. However, positive outcomes are possible with prompt treatment.

When someone is experiencing a stroke, time is of the essence. Seconds matter for effective treatment and maximizing the chance for a full recovery, and knowing the signs of a stroke often means a faster response time.

If someone you know is at an increased risk of stroke or you suspect they have just experienced one, remember FAST: face, arms, speech and time. 
  • Face: If you suspect a stroke, first ask the person to smile. If one side of their face droops or the smile is lopsided, they could be experiencing a stroke. This drooping occurs due to a lack of oxygen to feed the cells, or in the case of a burst blood vessel after a clot, excess pressure to the brain cells. 
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise their arms. If both arms don’t reach the same height, that weakness may be a result of diminished brain activity or oxygen loss to the muscles. Both of these are signs of a stroke. 
  • Speech: Can your loved one repeat a simple phrase back to you? Slurred or confused speech may be a sign that the brain isn’t receiving enough oxygen. 
  • Time: If one or more of these symptoms is present in your loved one, it’s time to call emergency services.

Other symptoms of stroke include sudden, unexplained headache, blurred vision, confusion, numbness on one side of the body, dizziness and difficulty moving or communicating.

After calling 9-1-1, it’s important to stay with the person and ensure that they continue breathing. CPR may be necessary if their breathing is slow or labored. If they are conscious, provide a comforting presence and be sure to keep them from moving, drinking or eating until emergency personnel arrive.

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