How to Spot a Stroke

Most adults have heard about stroke only vaguely, and few people know what a stroke is. In fact, many people cannot think of anyone who had a stroke. But a stroke can affect children, young adults, pregnant women, or middle-aged individuals.

Strokes are treatable and 85% of stroke victims survive a stroke. The sooner a stroke victim is spotted, the more likely he is to get emergency intervention and to survive.

And the sooner proper medical care is given, the more disability can be prevented.

So it is important to be able to spot a stroke. But you don't have to know medical words or understand neuroanatomy to be able to spot a stroke. You just have to follow your gut when you think something isn't quite right.

When someone around you is having a stroke, her behavior can actually affect you! Here are some ways to be able to spot a stroke.

When someone is driving erratically 

Think about how much time people spend in their cars. A stroke does not happen with an appointment or when it is convenient. If you witness an unsafe driver, pay attention to the license number and street name and call for emergency help. Of course, we always think that erratic drivers could be drunk or under the influence of drugs - but keep in mind that the driver could have gotten into the car feeling a little dizzy and had a stroke before getting to his destination.

 Your action to get professional attention for an erratic driver could save many lives.

If someone seems lost

Most people who have established dementia do not go out alone frequently. But someone may suddenly have a stroke while out and become lost or disoriented. If you notice a person who seems confused or befuddled, call for emergency help so that the individual can get medical help in time and her loved ones can be contacted before she gets hurt or things get worse.

If someone’s speech is strange 

Speech abnormality is one of the most obvious signs of a stroke. Fortunately, when someone is having a stroke, he doesn't necessarily avoid speaking. If a person's speech is garbled or confused or doesn't make sense, he may be having a stroke.

If someone's face or body seems lopsided

If an individual’s face or body suddenly seems uneven, he is likely to be having a stroke. This can look like a dangling arm, a dragging leg or a droopy face. If you are in a situation in which a friend, coworker or customer suddenly develops this kind of problem, ask if she is ok. And if she doesn't have a clear response that shows you she is aware of her problem and has had it for a long time, then treat it as an emergency.

If someone falls

Most falls are caused by tripping on something. But, sometimes a person falls because he is feeling unbalanced or his body suddenly can't hold him up. Often, someone who tripped can get up or can ask for help. But someone who had a stroke needs emergency help right away.

You can usually tell if a fall is serious by simply asking, 'Are you ok?' or 'Do you need help?' If the person with whom you are speaking can't get up quickly or answer clearly, then she needs urgent professional help right away.

Spotting a stroke isn't about learning detailed medical stuff. It is about being aware of the people around you and giving a few minutes of your time to take the initiative to determine whether someone is ok or not.


Weiner, William J., Goetz, Christopher G, Neurology for the Non-Neurologist, Fifth Edition, Lippincott Wiliams& Winkins, 2004

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