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Strokes are the 5th leading cause of death in the US, and the leading cause of disability in adults. We all have an idea of what to do if someone is having a heart attack, but what do you do if you or someone near you could be having a stroke?

First off, here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.

  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or trouble understanding.

  3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance/coordination.

  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Now that’s a lot to remember, so there’s a handy way to remember: FAST

F: Face – are facial movements symmetrical, or does one side droop?

A: Arms – does one arm drift downwards if the person is trying to raise both?

S: Speech – is speech slurred or difficult to understand?

T: Time – If you observe any of these symptoms, act FAST – call 911!

Studies have conclusively shown that the earlier a stroke victim can receive treatment, the better the outcome. The effects of a stroke could even be fully reversed if treated in the first hour or two. So don’t delay if you’re unsure.

Prevention of strokes is, of course, also crucial. Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, nutritious diet, quitting smoking, and healthy levels of alcohol intake can reduce your risk. If you have other factors that increase your risk for a stroke, discuss with your Primary Care Provider how to best reduce your risk.

-Veronica Dockery, PA-C