FAST: Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 7, 2020
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One out of every 20 deaths in the United States is the result of a stroke. In fact, every 40 seconds, someone in this country experiences one. In honor of National Stroke Month, recognized every year in May, we offer more insight about these brain attacks and the signs that one may be happening to someone you care about.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is suddenly blocked or significantly reduced. It causes an interruption of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. There are two types of strokes to be aware of:

  • Ischemic stroke: This type accounts for 87% of all strokes. An artery becomes blocked, usually because of a blood clot or a buildup of plaque or fatty deposits in the arteries.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: While not as common as an ischemic stroke, this type of stroke is far more deadly. While less than 15% of strokes are hemorrhagic, they cause more than 30% of all deaths from strokes. This type of brain attack occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. It causes blood in the brain to leak.

Both types of strokes can impact a person’s movement, speech, vision, cognitive abilities, and bodily functions. Someone who is experiencing a stroke may even lose consciousness.

Another closely related condition is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). While they are often referred to as a mini-stroke, they aren’t technically considered to be a stroke. A TIA is caused by a temporary blood clot. Symptoms are usually short-lived and resolve when the clot dissolves. A TIA is more common than the other two types of stroke.

An Easy Way to Remember the Warning Signs of a Stroke

F-A-S-T is an acronym created to recognize the most common signs that indicate someone is having a stroke. Each of the letters stands for a different symptom:

  • F is for FACE: This symptom isn’t always present when someone is experiencing a stroke, but it is a red flag when it does. When one side of the mouth droops or a smile is lopsided, it could be an indication that something is wrong. If you think a friend or loved one might be having a stroke, examine their face to look for any changes. Ask them to smile, too.
  • A is for ARMS: After you look for facial changes, check the arms next. Have the senior try to lift both arms over their head. They may not be able to lift one arm if they are having a stroke. Even if they can lift both arms, one may drift downward. That can be a warning sign of a neurological problem like a stroke.
  • S is for SPEECH: Difficulty with verbal skills is a classic sign of a stroke. That’s because blood flow and oxygen to the brain are impacted. Slurring words, repeating the same things over and over, having trouble finding the right words, or displaying unusual speech patterns, are all warning signs that must not be ignored. Don’t wait to see if these symptoms improve. Seek help right away.
  • T is for TIME: Finally, be mindful of time. When someone is exhibiting any of the warning signs listed above, call 911 without delay. Every minute counts. Tell the dispatcher someone with you is having a stroke. Life-saving medications must be administered within a small window of time to be effective. In most cases, 911 is the fastest way to get the person the medical intervention they need.

Learn More About Stroke Prevention

The next step is to learn what you and your senior loved one can do to prevent a stroke. While not all of the risk factors are avoidable, many are. The resource 5 Easy Steps To Lower Your Risk Of Stroke offers great information to help you get started!