Don't brush off early warning signs of a stroke, from the December 2013 Harvard Men's Health Watch
It's important to recognize the signs of a stroke and get to a hospital fast. Time is brain: the longer the gap between the start of stroke symptoms and treatment, the more brain cells die, reports the December 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch.
Experts have developed the FAST (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) mnemonic device to highlight some of the more obvious signs of a brain attack. A more detailed list includes:
- Face drooping. One side of the face goes slack. A smile appears uneven.
- One arm is weak. When raising both arms, one arm drifts downward.
- Numbness. Loss of feeling on one side of the body, or one part of the body, such as the face, an arm, or a leg.
- Speech difficulties. Inability to find words or understand what is spoken, or slurring of speech.
- Sudden vision trouble. Blurred vision, double vision, or loss of vision in one eye.
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or sudden and severe headache can also be warning signs.
Many people fail to act on a warning signal called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is a small stroke that lasts minutes to hours and goes away on its own. People who experience a TIA may be tempted to avoid or delay a trip to a hospital's emergency department, but that's a dangerous decision. "We really discourage people from the wait and watch approach if they have any symptoms that suggest a stroke," says Dr. Shruti Sonni, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance. "A TIA is a warning sign. It says you are at risk for something worse to happen."