Signs of Stroke
The American Stroke Association advises everyone to learn to recognize these signs of stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
The acronym FAST is an easy way to remember signs of stroke and what to do if you think a stroke has occurred. (The most important is to immediately call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.) FAST stands for:
- (F)ACE. Ask the person to smile. Check to see if one side of the face droops.
- (A)RMS. Ask the person to raise both arms. See if one arm drifts downward.
- (S)PEECH. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Check to see if words are slurred and if the sentence is repeated correctly.
- (T)IME. If a person shows any of these symptoms, time is essential. It is important to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Call 9-1-1. Act FAST.
Clot-Busting Treatment Window Expanded
It is critical for patients who experience stroke symptoms to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. Patients who are suffering an ischemic stroke may be able to receive a clot-busting drug to dissolve the clot if they reach a hospital within 3 hours of symptom onset.
In 2009, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association recommended extending this treatment window to 4.5 hours for patients who:
- Are younger than 80 years old
- Are not having a severe stroke
- Do not have a history of stroke and diabetes
- Do not take oral anticoagulant (“blood-thinner”) drugs
Review Date: 05/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.