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Most people alive today know someone who has experienced a stroke. This common but devastating medical condition occurs when blood flow to the brain is restricted, resulting in cell death and potentially permanent brain damage.

A stroke is a serious medical emergency, and they’re all too common. In the United States, a person experiences a stroke every 40 seconds; of those, one in 20 will die. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the symptoms of a stroke - when timing is crucial, knowing how to identify the condition and call for help can save yours or someone else’s life. Here’s what you should know about identifying and reacting to common symptoms of a stroke.

Common Symptoms of a Stroke: Act FAST

One of the most recognized acronyms in the world, F-A-S-T is also a mnemonic that can help you remember the signs and symptoms of a stroke. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, follow these steps:

F - FACE. Ask them to smile. Does one side of their face droop or seem hard to move?

Facial drooping is one of the most commonly recognized symptoms of a stroke. It occurs when the muscles that control the face are damaged in the brain, causing facial paralysis and the characteristic ‘drooping’ appearance. Depending on the type of stroke, this can be due to a lack of oxygen or excess pressure caused by bleeding in the brain.

A - ARMS. Ask them to raise both arms. Do they have trouble lifting them to the same height? Does one arm drift downward?

The same paralysis that causes one-sided facial drooping leads to arm weakness during a stroke. A person suffering a stroke will be unable to hold both arms to the same height. They may also struggle to squeeze your hand or a ball on one side of their body.

S - SPEECH. Ask them to repeat a simple sentence. Is their speech slurred or strange? Do they have trouble repeating the phrase?

Lack of oxygen to the brain can cause a stroke victim to become extremely confused and disoriented. This often results in slurred or strange speech patterns. They may not know they are speaking abnormally, or they may not be able to speak at all. At this stage, it’s crucial to keep them calm and reassure them that you’re seeking medical attention.

T - TIME. If the person is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1.

Any symptom of a stroke means it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately. The best treatments are only effective if administered in the first 3 hours of the first stroke symptoms. This means that seeking prompt treatment is crucial in preventing long-term brain damage from a stroke.

If possible, note the time the first stroke symptom appears. This will help medical professionals decide on the best course of treatment for the stroke patient.

Even if the symptom(s) appears to resolve, don’t delay - call 9-1-1 immediately. This could be a sign of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), an early warning sign of a stroke that needs immediate medical attention.

Other Stroke Symptoms

The F-A-S-T mnemonic is a good way to spot the most common and obvious signs of a stroke, but there are other symptoms you should watch out for. Those include:

Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.

Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face or limbs, especially on one side of the body

If you or someone you know is at risk of stroke, the expert physicians at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help. We offer detailed stroke prevention and management treatments that can analyze and reduce your risk of future strokes. Contact us today!

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