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Signs of Stroke? Think FAST — And Call 9-1-1

Dr. Flaster with LEMSA tech

“Think FAST.” Those are two of the most important words to remember during Stroke Awareness Month — and all year long. Keeping this phrase in mind can help reduce the risk of speech problems, permanent weakness, brain damage, or even death.

What Is A Stroke?

A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident, affects the blood vessels in your brain. A stroke can happen when either a blood vessel breaks causing bleeding into the brain or more commonly (about 85% of the time) a blood vessel is blocked, depriving the brain of blood flow. Without flowing blood brain cells rapidly run out of oxygen and die.

The good news is, rapid treatment can reduce or even reverse the damage caused by a stroke — but time is critical. As they say, “Time is brain.” In other words, the more quickly a stroke is recognized and treated, the better the chances of preserving brain function.

Use FAST To Spot A Stroke

Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke. “FAST” can help:

F = Face: Ask the person to smile and notice whether one side of his or her face droops.

A = Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms and notice whether one drifts down or hardly moves at all.

S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and notice whether the speech is slurred or sounds odd. Do they understand you or are they hard to understand?

T = Time: If you see any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately. Also, take note of the time when the symptoms first appeared and give it to the ambulance team.

Other signs of stroke

Stroke symptoms usually come on suddenly. Other signs can include numbness (especially on one side of the body), confusion, difficulty understanding speech, trouble seeing, sudden loss of balance, sudden severe dizziness or sudden and severe headache. Even so-called “mini strokes”, or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) should be treated as medical emergencies, because they increase the risk of major stroke.

Get Treatment FAST

It’s worth repeating: If you see the signs of suspected stroke, call 9-1-1 for an ambulance. This is true even if the symptoms seem to go away. An ambulance is the fastest way to medical treatment.

Do not attempt to drive yourself or another person to the hospital. If you try to drive yourself, you could become unconscious behind the wheel. What’s more, the emergency medical services (EMS) teams can save valuable time by starting life-saving procedures in the ambulance on the way to the hospital emergency room.

The ambulance crew can take patients directly to hospitals that have advanced stroke care, and they can call the hospital while they are on the way so the stroke team can be ready when the patient arrives. Prompt treatment can save lives and reduce the long-term effects of ischemic stroke, providing the best possible chance of full recovery.

Lancaster General Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission and recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as a Primary Stroke Center. Lancaster General Hospital is the only hospital in Lancaster County to offer mechanical thrombectomy, an advanced stroke procedure.

author name

Heather D. Harle, MD

Heather D. Harle, MD, is a neurologist with LG Health Physicians Neurology specializing in the treatment of headache, stroke, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and neuromuscular diseases.

Education: Medical School–Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University; Internship, residency, fellowship–University of Virginia.

Call: 717-396-9167

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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