identifying strokes old man

Properly identifying strokes is an incredibly important ability. It can potentially save a life and prevent long-term irreversible brain damage. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S., affecting around 800,000 people a year. Sadly, more than 140,000 of those people lose their lives to the spontaneous condition each year.

A stroke happens when the blood supply is cut off to an area of the brain, making that area essentially momentarily dead. The stroke’s severity depends on how much of the brain tissue was deprived of blood and where in the brain it was located. Symptoms, however, are mostly typical.

Identifying Strokes, the FAST Way

Some of the symptoms may or may not be present, but if there’s any silver lining in the situation, it’s that there are many symptoms to work with. They could manifest themselves in the form of weakness, numbness, confusion, memory loss, etc.

But the four main symptoms are the ones you should look out for, since they are the most common. There’s even an acronym so you can remember them: F.A.S.T.

Face drooping

It’s common during a stroke for the muscles in your face to become weak and/or numb. This is when you should look out for the tell-tale clue in identifying strokes, the one you’ve probably heard horror stories of: facial paralysis or droopiness.

It usually shows up on one side of the face, creating an unusual expression and an uneven smile. If you believe your loved one if suffering from a stroke, ask him or her to smile. If they try to smile and it appears slanted or uneven, move on to the next step.

Arm weakness

A stroke can cause muscle weakness and numbness all across the body, not just the face. The next step would be to examine the strength of the rest of the body. Make note if the person feels numbness or tingling, and be sure it isn’t followed by complete weakness.

Ask your loved one to lift both of their arms. If they are suffering from a stroke, it’s likely they’ll struggle to move one or both arms (in most cases, weakness manifests itself on one side of the body only). If they experience weakness in one or both arms, it just might be an imminent stroke.


Continue talking to the person. If they are having trouble speaking or are slurring their words, they’re experiencing one of the most common symptoms of a stroke. One particularly upsetting symptom people have witnessed is the inability to put together actual words and, instead, the victim begins muttering simple sounds without even realizing they aren’t actually speaking.

If the speech trouble is subtle or seemingly not there, ask them to repeat sentences and speak in simple sentences while you observe for abnormal speech. A stroke symptom could be as small as misplaced words or freudian slips—or possibly a “speaking in tongues” situation.

Time to call 911

“Time” is the key word here. You can complete each of these steps in a reasonable amount of time—identifying strokes with the FAST method should take no more than 30 seconds. If the victim shows any of these symptoms, they should be on their way in for emergency medical attention.

Calling 911 should be your biggest priority. Don’t try to drive them yourself because, believe it or not, an ambulance is the fastest way to get help to a stroke patient. The longer you wait, the more at risk they are for brain damage. Even if the symptoms you identified somehow went away, don’t call and cancel. The symptoms still happened, and that’s enough to be concerned about.

Other symptoms to watch out for

Don’t ignore any symptoms. Wherever the stroke hits in the brain, it’s likely to have some sort of effect or symptom. Besides the four main symptoms, there are other recorded possibilities around the time of a stroke occurrence that you should also make note of and observe.

  • Partial paralysis
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Mundane tasks suddenly becoming difficult
  • Sudden and drastic change in behavior/personality
  • Dizziness
  • Intense headache
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Sporadic spasms, eye movements, and muscle stiffness

You probably noticed how those symptoms are, in one way or another, related to the four main symptoms at least to some degree. Identifying strokes may be subtle or it may be prominent, but in any case, you should be prepared enough to see the patterns and signs.

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Quick Care from Las Vegas Urgent Care

Knowing what to do in the event of a stroke can save lives and now that identifying strokes is something you’re familiar with, you know the importance of emergency care. For urgent care situations, check out Las Vegas Urgent Care’s 24 hour quick care Las Vegas service.

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