Every year, more than 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke, often resulting in death or long-term disability. Stroke happens when the brain’s blood supply gets cut off. The oxygen deprivation that follows causes brain cells to die. The aftermath of a stroke can have a devastating impact on survivors, who sometimes permanently lose their ability to speak, move and remember. Prompt treatment is the best way to minimize brain damage in stroke patients — familiarize yourself with the following symptoms and you’ll know exactly when to take action.

A stroke will occasionally develop over time, but more often than not the condition presents with abrupt signs like these:

  • Numbness or weakness in a person’s face, arms or legs — especially on just one side.
  • Confusion or difficulty comprehending others
  • Trouble talking
  • Vision problems with one or both eyes
  • Problems with balance or coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden, severe headache with no apparent cause

If you suspect that someone might be having a stroke, think F.A.S.T. and check for these things —

Face

Ask the person to smile. Does their smile seem uneven? Do their facial features appear to droop to one side?

Arms

Have the person raise their arms. Is one arm higher than the other? Can they raise both arms and keep them there, or does one arm drift down?

Speech

Ask the person to repeat a short, simple phrase. Are they having trouble repeating the phrase? Are they failing to speak clearly and slurring words?

Time

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, it’s time to call 9-1-1. A stroke is a medical emergency, and every minute counts.

A stroke is a serious condition and knowing how to recognize the warning signs is crucial. Quick intervention helps prevent lasting health problems and offers patients the best shot at recovery.