There are not many things scarier than a stroke. Like a heart attack, a stroke can come on suddenly, with little or no advance warning. And like a heart attack, a stroke can cause serious and lasting damage, or it may be fatal, especially if you don't respond quickly. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of adult disability.
That's why it's very important to know the warning signs of stroke and if you see them, call 911 immediately. A quick response can mean the difference between life and death. Warning signs include sudden:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Confusion or trouble speaking.
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Severe headache with no known cause.
If you observe or suspect anyone to have at least one of those symptoms, act FAST. Here's a way to remember what to do—remember the letters F-A-S-T:
F for Face: Ask the person to smile. Is one side of the face drooping?
A for Arm: Can they raise both arms or is one arm weak?
S for Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is their speech slurred or confused?
T for Time: Call 911 right away!
A 2011 study found that African-Americans delay calling 911 after a stroke and instead call a relative or friend. This is alarming. African-Americans are twice as likely to experience a first stroke as Caucasians. They are also twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians.
Another study found that even though people recognized a friend or family member might be having a stroke, they may not call 911. In a stroke, minutes matter—dial 911!
Here are some important tips to remember:
- Identify: learn about stroke risk factors.
- Reduce your risk factors: make lifestyle changes to help reduce your stroke risk.
- Recognize and respond: know the warning signs of stroke and call 911 immediately if you or someone close to you shows signs of a stroke.
Freda Lewis-Hall, MD, DFAPA is a physician and the Chief Patient Officer of Pfizer Inc.
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- 5. National Stroke Association. Minorities and Stroke. Accessed January 11, 2018.
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