How to recognize a stroke and take action

By Jessica Primavera

(Daily Collegian Photo Archive)
(Daily Collegian Photo Archive)

The idea of a stroke can be scary and many people feel that it’s not something they need to think about until they reach old age. But while it’s true that three-quarters of strokes occur in people over 65 years old, knowledge about strokes can benefit bystanders as well as potential victims.

Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States and the No. 1 leading cause of long-term disability, according to The Internet Stroke Center. If you are prepared, you can help a person experiencing a stroke by recognizing the signs and getting them to a hospital faster, which will help their recovery process.

The American Stroke Association has a helpful acronym to remind people of a stroke’s signs: F.A.S.T. “F” stands for face drooping or numbness. You can ask the person to smile and see if one side of his or her face droops.

“A” stands for arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one is significantly lower than the other. Or you could have the person hold both of your hands and ask them to squeeze as hard as possible with both hands, checking to see if one hand is much weaker than the other.

“S” is short for speech difficulty. Notice if the person’s speech is slurred or hard to understand. Ask them to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue,” as the ASA suggests. See if they have trouble repeating it.

Lastly, “T” stands for time. If the person exhibits any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately.

An important piece of information to note is since a stroke is a result of part of the brain not getting enough blood (and therefore oxygen), a person’s symptoms may vary, depending on the part of the brain that is affected. If a person is having a stroke, he or she might not show all of the symptoms listed, and may only have one instead.

It’s better to err on the side of caution and call 9-1-1 even if you’re unsure if the person is having a stroke. Medical emergencies are often stressful and confusing, but just remember to act F.A.S.T.


Jessica Primavera is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]