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Spot Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke F.A.S.T.

In the United States, the fatality (death) rate associated with having a stroke has decreased over the past few decades. Effective treatments can help prevent stroke-related disability. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. A stroke occurs every 40 seconds in the United States. A stroke is a medical condition that results from a lack of proper blood flow to part of the brain. When the blood supply is interrupted, so too is the delivery of essential oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Brain cells have a high demand for oxygen and cannot live long without an adequate supply; they die without minutes. 

Stroke and Black Americans

Stroke rates are higher in Black Americans than in any other racial group. It is more likely for blacks with diabetes to suffer an ischemic stroke–which is caused by a blood clot often in the carotid artery (in the neck) obstructing the blood flow to the brain. Black stroke survivors are more likely to be physically disabled after a stroke and suffer with difficulty performing daily tasks.

According to studies, Blacks are more likely to consider symptoms of a stroke a medical emergency and call 911 when they or someone they love is suffering from stroke symptoms. 

Symptoms of An Untreated Stroke

It is common for stroke victims to experience some type of disability or deficit after their stroke. The physical and emotional impact of a stroke depends on many factors, such as what part of the brain is affected. Some people experience trouble speaking (aphasia) after a stroke, others have paralysis on one side of the body. Recovery from the after-effects of a stroke is often a long process and sometimes, a full recovery is not possible. Most individuals can, however, resume normal lives after receiving proper treatment. Examples of stroke complications may include:

  • Hemi-paralysis (being paralyzed on one side of the body)
  • Dysphasia (difficulty talking or swallowing)
  • Trouble with normal balance 
  • Loss of memory
  • Behavioral changes
  • Emotional changes
  • Chronic (long-term) fatigue

Why it’s Important to Identify Stroke Symptoms Quickly

A stroke that is left untreated for too long can cause even greater brain damage and disability. Although the stroke has ended, brain damage has not stopped. An ischemic stroke lasts as long as ten hours. The damage to your brain grows with every second that you wait for treatment. Untreated strokes can cause the brain to age up to 36 years if they go untreated for the full duration (i.e., 10 hours) of the cardiovascular event. In fact, up to one million brain cells are lost each minute you wait to seek treatment after symptoms of a stroke.

The nature of stroke makes it difficult, if not impossible, for most patients to seek help for themselves. Bystanders have a tremendous responsibility, whether they are friends, family members, coworkers, or random strangers. Stroke victims’ first responders are responsible for


ensuring that prompt medical attention is provided. To protect those around you, familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of stroke by learning the meaning of the acronym F.A.S.T.  

What Does the Acronym F.A.S.T. Mean?

The acronym F.A.S.T. was developed by the American Stroke Association to help people quickly identify stroke warning signs; F.A.S.T. stands for:

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  1. Face Drooping
  2. Arm Weakness
  3. Speech Difficulty
  4. Time to Call 

A stroke can have different signs and symptoms based on the part of your brain affected by the lack of proper blood supply.

Some common stroke symptoms can be recognized when using the acronym F.A.S.T., and you can remember what to do if you or someone else is having early signs and symptoms of a stroke.

A stroke should be treated immediately! Stroke symptoms should be reported to 911 and emergency medical treatment should be provided as soon as possible. Getting help as soon as possible can lead to better outcomes.

Essential Action Steps

Important action steps linked with stroke prevention and early intervention include:

  1. Memorize the symptoms and action steps in the acronym F.A.S.T.
  2. Never leave a person alone who is having signs or symptoms of a stroke
  3. Learn more about stroke and find local support groups by calling 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653)
  4. If you or someone you know has had a stroke, sign up for the free magazine for stroke survivors called the Stroke Connection.  
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Sherry Christiansen

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