Learn to Recognize the Signs of a Stroke


Why it’s important

A stroke, also known as a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain stops, and the brain cells in the area begin to die. A stroke can affect the entire body.

Acting fast can make a big difference for someone who’s having a stroke. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) emphasizes that getting emergency help within an hour can prevent long-term disability or death.

You may be reluctant to call emergency services if you aren’t sure whether someone’s having a stroke, but people who get treatment sooner have a major advantage.

People who are treated with a blood clot-dissolving drug within 4.5 hours of symptoms have a greater chance of recovering without major disability, according to 2018 guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA).

Some strokes may also require surgical treatment.

The ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke can mean the difference between life and death. Read on to learn what they are.


What it means to “Act FAST”

Stroke symptoms are unique because they come on suddenly, without warning. The National Stroke Association suggests using the term “FAST” to help you recognize common stroke symptoms.

FAST Sign


F for face If you notice a droop or uneven smile on a person’s face, this is a warning sign.


A for arms Arm numbness or weakness can be a warning sign. You can ask the person to raise their arms if you’re unsure. It’s a warning sign if the arm drops down or isn’t steady.


S for speech difficulty Ask the person to repeat something. Slurred speech can indicate that the person is having a stroke.


T for time If someone is experiencing stroke symptoms, it’s time to act fast.

Additional symptoms of stroke may include:

  • vision troubles, in one or both eyes

  • numbness in limbs, most likely on one side

  • overall fatigue

  • trouble walking

If you feel these signs yourself, or see them affecting someone else, call 911 or your local emergency services. Get more information about first aid for stroke.