A doctor examining brain scans

Know the signs of a stroke

Strokes are the fifth most common cause of death in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel is blocked by a clot or ruptures, causing part of the brain to not get the blood and oxygen it needs.

The bad news is that anyone can have a stroke, but the good news is that everyone can learn how to spot the signs and know what to do. If people learn and use the acronym FAST, precious time—and possibly a life—can be saved. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call 911 right away.

Face Drooping:   If one side of the person’s face is numb or seems to be drooping, ask him to smile. If his smile is uneven or lopsided, that could be a sign of a stroke.

Arm Weakness:   Ask the person to raise both arms. If one arm seems weak or drifts downward, that may be a sign that she is having a stroke.

Speech Difficulty:   If the person is unable to speak, or if his speech is slurred or difficult to understand, ask him to repeat a simple sentence such as “The grass is green.” Note whether he can say the words correctly and clearly; if not, consider this a sign of a stroke.

Time to Call 911:   Don’t hesitate to call 911 if the person has any of the above symptoms, even if the symptoms go away. To help the person get to the hospital as quickly as possible, tell the 911 operator that you believe she has had a stroke. Be sure to let emergency responders know what time the symptoms started.

Additional Symptoms:   The American Stroke Association also suggests calling 911 if someone shows the following symptoms:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking
  • Sudden trouble seeing
  • Sudden trouble walking or loss of balance
  • Sudden severe headache

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