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Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability in adults. The key to surviving stroke and reducing disability is to act fast at the first signs of stroke. Call 911 immediately. Treatment should be given within three hours of the first symptoms to reduce long-term disability. Stroke can happen to anyone at any age, so it is important to know the risk factors and signs.

Signs and symptoms

If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, remember the acronym: F-A-S-T.

  • F-Face: face drooping, an unusual smile, numbness
  • A-Arms: weakness, numbness, trouble walking
  • S-Speech: slurred speech, inappropriate words or silence
  • T-Time: time to call 911

A severe headache or trouble seeing in one or both eyes, along with one of the above signs, can mean a stroke. If you are unsure if you are experiencing a stroke, always play it safe – see a doctor.

What to do

If you think you, or someone around you, is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.

As you wait for an ambulance to arrive, lay the patient down flat. Gravity affects the amount of blood flow that gets to the brain. This will prevent the person from falling, and could potentially slow the stroke symptoms. It is also important to note when the stroke occurred. The most effective stroke treatment is a blood thinner and clot-busting drug called t-PA, or Alteplase. It’s most effective if given within three hours after symptoms first start. If someone receives treatment as soon as possible, it can make a remarkable difference in their recovery.

Don’t drive yourself

You might think it’s faster to get in the car and head to the hospital on your own, but it’s better to wait for a medical crew. Paramedics can begin treating patients on the way to the hospital, and they can call ahead to the emergency room so doctors are ready and waiting.

– Abigail Owunna, RN, BSN, SCRN, Stroke Coordinator at St. David’s Medical Center



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