Warning Signs of a Stroke: When to act FAST by Dr. Michael Horan

Stroke FASTA stroke happens when part of the brain is damaged because either an artery in the brain gets blocked with a clot (preventing the flow of critical oxygen and nutrients to the brain tissue) or a blood vessel bursts leading to a bleed into the brain.

Risk Factors for Stroke?

Things that increase the risk of having a stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, and lack of physical activity.

Major Signs of a Stroke?

•   Facial asymmetry: one side of the face looks lower than the other

•   Arm weakness or numbness on one side of the body (can also involve the leg on that side of the body)

•   Speaking difficulties (slurred speech or cannot understand or answer simple questions or commands)

What to do if you notice the Warning Signs?

Time is the most important factor for someone having a stroke. The faster you can get to a hospital, the better your chances of recovery. Therefore, you should call “911” if you observe any of the above warning signs.

The reason that time is very important is that for some strokes, a medication that dissolves blood clots can be given through the bloodstream as treatment and when administered early, can be life saving or otherwise turn a large, debilitating stroke into a much smaller one. This medication only works during the first few hours after a stroke. After that it is no longer effective and can even cause harmful side effects. Therefore, it is very helpful, when possible, to record the exact time that you or someone around you first noticed symptoms and the time that you or that person was last well without symptoms.

FAST Stroke Recognition and Response

The simple pneumonic, FAST, can help you spring into action and save someone’s life, maybe even your own:


Ask the person to smile.

Is one side of the face drooping?


Ask the person to raise both arms.

Does one arm drift downward?


Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the person unable to speak or is the speech slurred?


Act fast! Call 911 if the person shows any of these signs.


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