6 Signs of a Stroke (and What to Do If It Is)

February 21, 2014
by Michael Barber
6 Signs of a Stroke (and What to Do If It Is)

Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, but many people don’t know the warning signs. There are several easy ways to tell if someone is having a stroke, and if you see any of these in a friend or family member, get him or her to an emergency room as quickly as possible to minimize long-term damage.

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If someone around you seems confused or incoherent when speaking to another person, or is having trouble understanding what someone is saying, it could be a stroke. It is also difficult to speak or walk when having a stroke, so these signs could go along with the confused or dazed expression.


This one is not as easy to spot, since it’s hard to tell if someone else’s limbs have gone numb. However, one clear sign is that the person stops using the limb that has gone numb. For example, a stroke victim might be trying to get dressed and have one arm that is at his or her side, not involved in the process at all. One side of the face might also go numb, so watch for drooping eyelids or lips, especially when he or she is trying to speak.

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If a loved one suddenly becomes dizzy and has trouble walking or standing upright, this can be a sign of a stroke as well. This can be very dangerous, as a person having a stroke could fall over and hit his or her head, which could potentially cause more damage to the brain. Help the patient move to a safe place to lessen the chance for injury, then call for immediate care.

What to Do

If you see someone having any or all of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to call for help. You could save a life by calling an ambulance or taking the patient to an urgent care center. With strokes, every single minute can make a difference in long-term health effects, so move quickly and don’t wait to see if the symptoms resolve themselves. 

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Take Notes

The first and most important step is to call for help. Once you have done so, grab some paper and a pen and start writing things down. Make sure to take note of exactly what time the symptoms started, what signs the person exhibited that made you believe it could be a stroke, any information about medical history that you may know (chronic or acute illnesses or diseases, previous surgeries, hospitalizations, etc.), and any prescription medications that he or she might take. This information will be vital to the treating doctors.

Get Help

Even if the patient protests going to the hospital, help reassure him or her that urgent care is going to be crucial in finding out what is wrong. Even if you get there and find out it wasn’t a stroke, it is still much better than waiting and finding out it was when it is too late for help.

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If you see any of the stroke warning signs, move “FAST”: F- face (drooping), A- arms (can’t raise one), S- speech (slurred), and T- time (move quickly).