Know the signs of stroke and think F.A.S.T.

What is a stroke and why is it serious?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of adult deaths in the U.S. and can lead to permanent loss of brain function, serious disability, paralysis or a long, painful recovery that impacts entire families. A stroke is sudden and very serious. Within minutes, brain cells die. Prompt treatment is critical to minimize its impact. Learn the signs to detect, and help prevent, a stroke. 

Stroke risk factors
High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor that causes strokes. Obesity, high cholesterol, tobacco use, diabetes, having had a previous stroke or experiencing a TIA (a clot in the brain that resolves itself within 24 hours) also puts people at a higher risk of having a stroke.

Stroke signs and symptoms 
During a stroke, every minute counts. Learn the signs and take them seriously. Even if you’re unsure, seek help immediately. Quick treatment can lessen brain damage and save a life.
Signs and symptoms include: 

  • Sudden numbness, paralysis or weakness 
  • Vision issues/sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance, dizziness or lack of coordination 
  • Headache with vomiting or sudden, severe headache with no known cause
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A metallic taste in the mouth

Call 9-1-1 right away if you—or someone else—has any of these signs or symptoms. 

F.A.S.T. action is key

Acting F.A.S.T. can help stroke patients get the care they desperately need. The most effective treatments are often only available if a stroke is diagnosed within three hours of the first symptoms. 

Act F.A.S.T. test if you think someone is having a stroke: 

  • F. Face—ask them to smile. Check if one side appears to be drooping. 
  • A. Arm—ask them to raise both arms. Is one drifting lower?
  • S. Speech—ask them to talk. Is speech strange or slurred?
  • T. Time—if you see any symptoms, call 911 immediately. Every minute counts.

As we observe National Stroke Awareness Month, spread awareness about stroke symptoms and remember: F.A.S.T. action can minimize brain injury, maximize recovery—and save lives. 

Prevention through primary care
See your primary care provider for regular exams and screenings that can help you prevent a stroke. He or she evaluates your weight, blood pressure, lifestyle and health history to assess your health risks. Your provider will also decide on treatment plans and recommend changes that can help you stay healthy. Visit the American Stroke Association for more information.