Here is a F.A.S.T. way to identify and act when someone is experiencing a stroke. We urge you to share this handy shortcut with friends and family.
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability
About 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year. It’s the fifth leading cause of death and a major cause of adult disability. Over 75% of patients survive a first stroke during the first year and over half survive beyond 5 years.
A stroke is a “brain attack.” It happens when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. That deprives brain cells of oxygen and those cells begin to die. When brain cells die, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost, like memory and muscle control.
Stroke survivor disabilities
25% of survivors end up with a minor disability and 40% have moderate-to-severe disabilities. They’re often left with physical weakness, speech impairment, and unusual muscle tightness. These impairments can affect the ability to communicate, walk, eat independently, bathe, dress, and other activities of daily life.
F.A.S.T. is a shortcut to remember stroke signs
Use these initials to remember the key signs.
F = Face drooping on one side.
Ask your senior to smile – is it uneven?
A = Is one arm weak or numb?
Ask them to raise both arms – is one arm weak?
S = Speech problems like slurring, inability to speak, being incoherent. Ask them to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue” as a quick test.
T = Time to call 911. If you see any of these signs, even if the symptoms don’t last, call 911 right away and get to the hospital ASAP. Check the time so you can tell EMTs and doctors when the symptoms started.
Additional signs of stroke
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Brief loss of consciousness.
What to do if you suspect a stroke
If you notice any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
Speed is very important. The faster your senior gets to the hospital for treatment, the better their chances for survival and recovery.
If the symptoms pass quickly, your older adult may have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA). That’s a brief blockage of blood flow to the brain that usually happens before a stroke. Don’t ignore this warning sign! Early treatment can prevent a fatal or serious stroke.
Strokes are serious and can be deadly. Being familiar with the signs and responding quickly can save your senior’s life or reduce the chance of developing disabilities.