A stroke occurs when there's bleeding into your brain or when normal blood flow to your brain is blocked. Within minutes of being deprived of essential nutrients, brain cells start dying — a process that may continue over the next several hours.
Seek immediate medical assistance. A stroke is a true emergency. The sooner treatment is given, the more likely it is that damage can be minimized. Every moment counts.
In the event of a possible stroke, use FAST to help remember warning signs.
- Face. Does the face droop on one side trying to smile?
- Arms. Is one arm lower when trying to raise both arms?
- Speech. Can a simple sentence be repeated? Is speech slurred or strange?
- Time. During a stroke every minute counts. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately
Other signs and symptoms of a stroke include:
- Weakness or numbness on one side of your body including either leg
- Dimness, blurring or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
- Severe headache — a bolt out of the blue — with no apparent cause
- Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially if accompanied by any of the other signs or symptoms
Risk factors for stroke include having high blood pressure, having had a previous stroke, smoking, having diabetes and having heart disease. Your risk of stroke increases as you age.
- Warning signs. American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Warning-Signs_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Stroke. American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=274. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Warning signs of stroke. National Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=symp. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.