Is It A Stroke? Be Fast!

Every 40 seconds, a stroke occurs in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association. The warning signs of stroke can be sneaky, often going unnoticed by the individual experiencing symptoms and the people around them. However, detecting and treating a stroke within three hours is critical for avoiding lasting damage.

“Stroke is an emergency, but because it doesn’t hurt, people don’t seek treatment,” explains Kelley Joseph, neuroscience coordinator at the ProMedica Stroke Network. “This is a mistake, as ischemic stroke (stroke caused by blockage of an artery) can be reversed 85% of the time if community members seek treatment in a timely manner.”


The American Stroke Association recommends the FAST acronym, designed to help bystanders identify a stroke fast. The quicker a stroke victim receives medical attention, the greater his or her chances of survival and recovery. Experts at ProMedica follow the BE FAST acronym to feature additional warning signs such as:

B: Balance- According to Joseph, the severe, sudden onset of balance problems and ataxia (a lack of voluntary muscle movement) may indicate that your loved one is experiencing a stroke.

E: Eyes and Vision– Unusual trouble with sight in one or both eyes is a warning sign that someone may be having a stroke, warns Joseph.

F: Face Drooping– Another common warning sign of stroke is face numbness or tingling. Joseph suggests asking your friend or relative to smile and check to see if their face is crooked or uneven.

A: Arm Weakness or Leg Numbness– Similar to the face drooping warning sign, someone experiencing a stroke may feel weak or numb on one side of the body. “Sudden onset of neurological deficits, especially weakness, numbness, or tingling of extremities is a clear warning sign of stroke,” says Joseph.

S: Speech Difficulty: If the person you are with is having trouble getting their words out or understanding your words, it could indicate the start of a stroke. Joseph says to be mindful of slurred or garbled speech.

T: Time to Call 9-1-1: Even if symptoms appear temporarily, be sure to call 9-1-1 immediately and pay attention to the clock.  You’ll need to know the time the symptoms first appeared. “Acute care practitioners have a very narrow window of time to treat stroke,” says Joseph. “The longer one waits, the more limited our options and the damage to the brain increases. Remember, time is brain.”

Reducing your chances of stroke

You don’t have to be another stroke victim. While uncontrollable factors, such as age, ethnicity and genetic predisposition may put you at a higher risk, recognizing the lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent stroke are still important. Joseph advises:

  • Developing healthy eating habits.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Managing related health conditions by taking blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetic medications as prescribed.
  • Speaking with your doctor about individual risk factors.

With the help of your primary care physician, many diseases linked to stroke, including hypertension, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, diabetes and atherosclerosis are treatable. Making wise decisions to quit smoking, drink less alcohol and maintain a healthy weight can also reduce your risk of stroke.

Learn more about ProMedica’s neurology services, including the ProMedica Stroke Network.