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Do You Know the Signs of Stroke?

May 7, 2015
Authored by

Pamela Provisor, RN, MSN, CCRN, CEN
Primary Stroke Center, Day Kimball Hospital


Every day thousands of Americans present to emergency departments with signs of stroke.  Conversely, every day thousands of Americans do not present to emergency departments with the signs of stroke.  In fact, many people do not recognize the signs of stroke or ignore those signs and do not seek essential early treatment. Why is this so important? Just like heart attacks, every minute counts towards a person’s ability to recover from a stroke.

A stroke, also called a brain attack, occurs when there is an interruption in the blood supply to the brain. This occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel or when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain and impacts the flow of oxygen and glucose to the brain cells.  One minute without oxygen results in 1.9 million brain cells lost and 14 billion connections between those cells destroyed.  It is vitally important that blood flow is restored quickly to prevent permanent damage.

The warning signs of stroke are:

  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, and/or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg (especially on one side)
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss or coordination or balance
  • Sudden severe headache with no apparent cause

There are other more subtle signs of stroke which should be identified as well.  These signs include vision changes, dizziness, altered mental status, generalized weakness and fatigue, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, and “passing out.” 

The type of symptoms a person exhibits indicates the level of damage that is being caused to the brain. To help people more easily identify these symptoms, and therefore respond quickly, healthcare professionals educate the community to think “FAST.”

To Identify a Stroke, Think "FAST":

  • F stands for “face.” Look to see if the person’s smile is uneven.
  • A stands for “arm.” Does the arm drift down when the person holds it up?
  • S stands for “speech.” Does the person’s speech sound strange?
  • T stands for “time.” Every second brain cells die; quick transportation to an emergency room is critically important.

If any of these signs are identified about you or someone else, dial 911, explain your symptoms, and request an ambulance for transportation to the nearest emergency department. Remember, “Time Is Brain.” Quick responsiveness to these symptoms makes all the difference in your life or the life of someone close to you.

Day Kimball Hospital is designated as a Primary Stroke Center for its high-quality stroke care.
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