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How to Identify a Stroke

Provided by Post Acute Medical

As the third leading cause of death in the United States, strokes are a grave risk for many, and awareness is incredibly important to not only educate and inform the public about preventative measures but also to help teach about their warning signs. A stroke is the result of lack of blood flow to the brain, and because symptoms appear quickly, spotting the signs is a time-sensitive matter; getting help as soon as possible is critical and can be the difference between life and death. For the uninitiated, there are several crucial warning signs to look for to identify a stroke. The acronym F.A.S.T. is one of the most helpful ways to learn and remember them.


When a person is suffering from a stroke, one of the most immediate signs is weakness or numbness on one side of the body. As a result, typically only one side of the face is also affected. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, ask them to smile. Having them attempt to smile is one of the best ways to identify a stroke as only one side of the face will be drooping. If their smile is uneven, it’s then time to check for other signs to confirm.


Much like the inability to display a full, even smile, a person suffering a stroke will also exhibit muscle weakness throughout the same side of the body that the smile drops. Ask them to raise both their arms up while you compare the two sides. If one side is weak or they cannot feel their arm, they will not be able to lift it, and it will slowly begin to drop under its weight. This telltale sign of a stroke is enough to conclude that you should call for help immediately.


One of the clearest signs of a stroke is slurred speech. If the person you suspect of having a stroke is unable to communicate properly and their speech becomes unintelligible or hard to understand, ask them to repeat a simple phrase back to you. If they cannot adequately or correctly repeat it, this is a sure sign of a stroke and action must be taken quickly to get them the help they need.


For many people, even the slightest sign of a stroke in a loved one can be a good enough reason to call for help. But in case it wasn’t obvious before, if a person is exhibiting any or all of the warning signs mentioned, it’s imperative that you call for help immediately, even if the symptoms have seemingly disappeared. Call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital to be assessed by a doctor, as they will be familiar with stroke and best able to accurately diagnose and provide aid.

Remembering this simple acronym will prove to be incredibly beneficial should you find yourself in this scary situation. Teach F.A.S.T. to your friends and family so they, too, know which warning signs to identify if they suspect a family member, loved one or even a stranger is having a stroke–it could save someone’s life.

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