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How to Tell If Someone is Having a Stroke

Posted on May 26, 2011

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and it is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States. What makes it particularly scary is that it can occur suddenly and in such a way that the person having the stroke may be unaware that there is anything seriously wrong.

There are treatments that can halt or reverse the damage caused by an acute stroke, but they only work if they are administered in the short time window after symptoms first appear. To help a possible stroke victim, remember the word FAST: face, arms, speech and time.

  • Face: Does one side of the person’s face drop when you ask him or her to smile?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Have the person try to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred or incorrect?
  • Time: If you suspect that someone has had a stroke, call 911 to get the person to the emergency room right away where a team of specialists can evaluate him or her. The time you save may greatly improve the outcome of the stroke.

Blog post contributed by Ronald Hess, M.D., PAMF Neurology. Dr. Hess is the founder and former medical director of the El Camino Hospital Stroke Center.