Yesterday a well-known celebrity died following a stroke at the pretty young age of 52. I’m re-publishing this post to remind everyone how to spot a stroke and get help FAST! FN
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood (oxygen) cannot get to the brain tissue, and the brain cells die. A stroke can be caused by a clot (called an ischemic stroke) or a ruptured blood vessel (called a hemorrhagic stroke). About 9 out of 10 strokes are caused by a clot.
An ischemic stroke is similar to what happens with a heart attack, when blood to the heart is blocked by a clot and the heart tissue dies. Risk factors for stroke—age, smoking, unhealthy lifestyle, family history—are the same for a heart attack.
The predominate symptom of a heart attack is crushing chest pain, but pain is not the most common symptom of a stroke.
Because it is so important to recognize, diagnose and treat a stroke as quickly as possible, the American Stroke Association came up with an easy mnemonic: F.A.S.T.
Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to Call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.
First aid for a stroke
- Call 9-1-1 as soon as you suspect a stroke. Time matters.
- Keep the patient calm. Keep yourself calm, too. Don’t panic! Help is on the way. Talk calmly and reassure the patient that help is coming and you won’t leave them alone.
- Have the patient sit or lie down. If they’re unconscious or having difficulty swallowing, position them lying on their side, so they don’t choke on saliva or vomit.
- Keep the patient comfortable. Get out of the sun. Loosen tight clothing. Provide a blanket if they’re cold.
- Don’t give the patient anything to eat or drink.
- Be prepared to tell the medics exactly when the symptoms started. This information will be important to the doctors in the emergency department.
You may be interested: Learn first aid and how to respond to an emergency
Why is speed so important?
The best treatment for ischemic stroke is a clot-busting drug called tPA. Brain tissue continues to die as long as it is deprived of oxygen; dissolving the clot and restoring blood flow is vital to reducing impairment and improving outcome.
As you can imagine, even in the best-case scenario, from the time you call 9-1-1 to the point when the doctor has diagnosed an ischemic stroke and is ready to start treatment, at least an hour will have passed.
So if you are with a friend, family member or complete stranger and you recognize stroke symptoms, think F.A.S.T.!
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2013.