Strokes are serious and can be deadly. Being familiar with the signs of stroke and responding quickly can save your older adult’s life or reduce their chance of developing major disabilities.
What is a stroke?
Think of a stroke as 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 during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost, like memory and muscle control.
F.A.S.T. is a shortcut to remember signs of stroke
Use these initials to remember the key signs of stroke and how to respond.
F = Face drooping on one side. Ask your older adult 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 symptoms like these are also signs of stroke:
· Numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face
· Confusion or trouble understanding
· Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
· Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
· Severe headache with no known cause
· Brief loss of consciousness
What to do if you suspect a stroke?
If you notice any of the signs of stroke, call 911 immediately.
Speed is very important. The faster your older adult gets to the hospital for treatment, the better their chances for survival and recovery.
If the stroke symptoms pass quickly, your older adult might have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is caused by a brief blockage of blood flow to the brain.
Don’t ignore a TIA, it’s a warning sign of future, more serious strokes. Early treatment and lifestyle changes can prevent a major or fatal stroke.