Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke

In the United States, a person has a stroke every 40 seconds. Knowing the signs of a stroke can help ensure life-saving care when minutes matter most.

“The word stroke is the common term for cerebral or cerebellar infarction, which is the death of brain tissue by lack of oxygen,” said Mark Loomus, MD, a neurologist with ProMedica Physicians. “The longer a brain is deprived of oxygen, the less chance for recovery. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to begin treatment for a stroke as soon as possible.”

Signs of a Stroke

When someone has a stroke, the symptoms show up quickly. “There’s a sudden onset of neurological deficit, such as paralysis, numbness, or loss of vision on one side of the body,” said Dr. Loomus. Other signs could be sudden onset of imbalance, vertigo, double vision or an inability to communicate. A sudden, severe, or unusual headache (like a thunderclap) could be a sign of a bleeding, or hemorrhagic, stroke.

Watch the video below to learn more about recognizing a stroke quickly:

What to Do When Someone Has a Stroke

If you think that you or someone you know may be having a stroke, Dr. Loomus recommends that you:

  1. Stay as calm as possible. Try not to panic.
  2. Have the person sit down, but keep their head somewhat elevated.
  3. Call 911 and unlock the front door. Put pets, such as dogs, out of the way and into a closed room.
  4. Do not give the person food or water, as their ability to swallow may be impaired.
  5. Do not let the person fall asleep.
  6. Do not drive yourself or drive the person to the ER. EMTs can assess the situation better, start therapy if needed and even call the ER ahead of time to let them know they’re coming.

Learn more about stroke and stroke care at