Know Stroke FAST!

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If you are among the millions of Americans who is not yet familiar with the symptoms of stroke, here is a quick and easy way to learn how to recognize a stroke if it ever happens to you or to someone you know. Just remember the word "FAST", as recommended by the National Stroke Association. Each one of the first three letters in FAST stands for a word which you can use to recognize a symptom of stroke.

The last letter...well, read on. Here is what each letter stands for, and how it can help you get someone with a stroke the appropriate treatment, FAST:

  • F=Face--ask the person to smile. If one side of the face appears crooked or drooping, the person may be having a stroke. A stroke usually causes weakness of the body or face. If you see that someone's face is lopsided, that is a sign of stroke, which is a medical emergency. Don't ignore it and call for emergency help.
  • A=Arms--ask the person to lift both of his or her arms in the air--if he or she has difficulty with one arm this too might be a sign that this person is having a stroke. One of the most obvious signs of a stroke is weakness on one side of the body. People may drop things or might obviously look slumped over. Because many people who experience a stroke are not fully aware of what is going or are not fully conscious, it is important for you to take the initiative in getting help if anyone seems to have suddenly become weak on one side of the body.
  • S=Speech--ask the person to speak. If his or her words are slurred or they are unable to speak, they might be having a stroke. People having a stroke might have trouble speaking clearly, using the correct words, or understanding words. If you are with someone at work or in a social situation, and he suddenly has problems communicating, do not brush it off. Get medical attention for him right away.
  • T=T is for time. If any of the above symptoms are present you must call 911 immediately in order to make sure that this person reaches the hospital FAST. Time is of essence in the medical treatment of a stroke. After a stroke occurs, there is no way to repair the brain injury caused by a stroke- and this leads to permanent disability or death. When a stroke patient arrives to the hospital soon after symptoms start, emergency medical therapy can be given to prevent stroke damage- giving her a better chance of survival and a healthy recovery with less disability.

What's the rush? tPA is a potent treatment for stroke which can is not effective unless it is given within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. Most people who could benefit from this and other powerful treatments wait too long to call for help and end up missing the time window for treatment. Don't let this happen to you or your loved ones. Educate yourself and others about stroke before it strikes and be prepared to act FAST.

Of course, diagnosing a stroke requires a medical professional. But, recognizing whether something might be a stroke is an essential part of getting urgent medical attention. In some cities, mobile stroke units can get stroke patients diagnosed and treated faster. The sooner someone with a stoke gets medical attention, the better the outcome. But that can't happen if the person who could be experiencing a stroke or people who are around don't notice and call for emergency help quickly. If you recognize a stroke, you can save someone's life. Learn how to spot a stroke.

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