How FAST can you spot a stroke?

This year, nearly 800,000 people may suffer strokes in the United States alone. Immediate intervention can make a world of difference for those affected by these sudden brain attacks.

Hugging photo by Leif Skoogfors – FEMA – U.S. Government photo – public domain
Hugging photo by Leif Skoogfors – FEMA – U.S. Government photo – public domain

How can you tell when someone is having a stroke?

A popular acronym for recognizing stroke is to act F.A.S.T. Here's what this means.

F - Face

Look for an uneven smile or grimace and any signs of facial drooping. Instruct the person to smile and show you her teeth. Can she do it? Ask her about her vision and whether her eyesight is more blurry than usual in one or both eyes.

A - Arm

See if the person is experiencing any numbness, tingling or sudden weakness in either arm. Tell her to raise one arm, then the other, above her head. Are both movements similar in strength, coordination and height?

Watch for similar symptoms with her legs. Often, stroke will affect one side of the body or another. Can she stand and walk without tipping or falling?

October 1 is International Day for the Elderly.

S - Speech

Is the person able to form words clearly and to make sense verbally? Can she understand when you speak to her and answer simple questions logically? Is she capable of repeating short phrases back to you?

T - Time

Ask her what day and time it is. Does she know? Can she tell you?

If any of these F.A.S.T. tests reveal possible problems, seek immediate professional medical help to rule out or treat possible stroke. Modern medicines can help to prevent permanent brain damage, if they are administered within the first three hours after stroke symptoms appear.

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