Stroke Warning Signs & Risk Factors
Speedy treatment is vital to someone having a stroke. Early recognition and treatment equals a better chance at recovery. But do you know the signs to recognize when someone you love is having a stroke? There’s a FAST way to remember.
FAST: The Key Steps to Recognizing a Stroke
There are four steps to recognizing when someone is having a stroke—and they’re easy to remember. When you spot them, call 9-1-1 immediately. The four steps are:
F - Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
A - Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S - Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly? Is his or her speech slurred?
T - Time to call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared.
Additional Signs of a Stroke
Although face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty are key indications that a stroke might be happening, there are other symptoms—all of them sudden—that can indicate the onset of a stroke. They include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or 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
Remember: The sooner a stroke is diagnosed and the sooner treatment begins, the better the chance of preventing brain damage.
Risk Factors for Stroke
There are some risk factors for stroke that you can affect and some that you can’t.
Risk Factors for Stroke You Cannot Change
- Age: Stroke risk doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
- Family history: You may have a greater risk if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke, as well as genetic disorders such as Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Sub-cortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy.
- Race: Stroke risk increases for African-Americans because of their higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
- Gender: Women have more strokes, and die from strokes, at a greater rate than men. Some female-specific conditions and medicines—birth control pills, pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use, and smoking, and post-menopausal hormone therapy—increase that risk, too.
- Prior stroke, TIA (warning stroke), or heart attack: If you had a previous incident, you have a higher likelihood of having a stroke.
Risk Factors for Stroke You CAN Change
- High blood pressure: This controllable condition is a leading cause of stroke.
- Cigarette smoking
- Diabetes mellitus: People with diabetes also often have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight, which increases the risk of stroke even more.
- Carotid or other artery disease such as peripheral artery disease
- Atrial fibrillation or other heart disease
- Sickle cell disease: This disease is present in mainly African-American and Hispanic children.
- High blood cholesterol
- Poor diet: Eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Food high in sodium can increased blood pressure, while eating too much may cause obesity.
- Physical inactivity and obesity
- Where you live: Strokes occur more often in the southeastern United States than elsewhere in the country.
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
Get Help Today
If you think someone is having a stroke, call 911. If you are unsure, call First Nurse at 515-239-6877 in Ames or 800-524-6877 from anywhere in Iowa. The sooner a stroke is properly diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of preventing brain damage.
If you have stroke risk factors, talk to your doctor. MyChart is an easy and secure way to request an appointment. Or our Find A Doctor search makes it easy to find the phone number for a provider.