Experiencing Symptoms of a Stroke? Think FAST!

As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) working in a medical setting, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with many individuals and families whose lives have been affected by stroke. Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in America and the leading cause of adult disability. Although some strokes strike without warning in otherwise healthy individuals, up to 80% are preventable. When working with individuals and their loved ones following a stroke, providing education is key. Many individuals have heard of the term “stroke” before, but are often unaware of risk factors, early symptoms, or less common signs.

What is a stroke?

Blood vessels that carry blood to the brain from the heart are called arteries. Each artery supplies blood to different parts of the brain. A stroke occurs when one of these arteries is either blocked or bursts. When this happens, the brain doesn’t get the blood it needs and starts to die. After a stroke, a person may have emotional, physical and cognitive changes depending on the part of the brain that was affected. During the initial onset of a stroke, time is of the essence and it is important to think and act F.A.S.T.!

FACE: Smile. Does one side of the face droop? Your face, including your lips and tongue, should always be even on both sides. Droopiness is often an early indicator of stroke.

ARMS: Raise up both arms. Does one arm drift downward or feel weak and/or tingly? Arm weakness is another common initial symptom of a stroke.

SPEECH: Does your speech sound slurred or strange? When a person is experiencing mouth weakness, their speech may sound garbled or difficult to understand. A good way to test this out is to repeat a simple phrase out loud.

TIME: If you observe any of these early signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Some other common stroke symptoms can include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg-usually on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding questions/directions
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance, or dizziness
  • Sudden/severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden chest pain or shortness of breath

Remember, folks — time is brain! If you think you or someone you love may be exhibiting signs of a stroke, think FAST.

For more information about stroke and prevention, visit the National Stroke Association’s website. http://www.stroke.org/site/PageNavigator/HOME

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