TriStar Portland ER August 30, 2016

Stroke, the fifth leading cause of death in adults in the U.S., takes the lives of approximately 130,000 Americans each year. One American dies from stroke every four minutes. These are startling statistics, but you can decrease your odds of being one of them by acting FAST at the first sign of stroke.

Here’s what to do if you or someone near you is having a stroke.

Act FAST

If someone is having stroke-like symptoms, think and act quickly. Use the acronym “FAST” to help you remember what to look for:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile and see if one side of the face droops. If so, call 911.
  • Arms: Ask them to raise both arms. If they can’t or one arm drifts downward, call 911.
  • Speech: Ask them to say, “The sky is blue.” If they can’t or if they slur the words, call 911.
  • Time: Don’t wait — call 911 even if the symptoms fade.

Sometimes, severe headaches or vertigo (dizziness) can accompany a stroke but these symptoms aren’t typical. However, weakness and a sudden change of vision may signal a stroke.

Be sure to note the time that symptoms first appeared. And don’t try to drive yourself or a loved one to a hospital. Call 911 for an ambulance so treatment can begin immediately.

Know what a stroke is

A stroke occurs when part of the brain is deprived of oxygen or blood. That part of the brain either dies or significantly malfunctions as a result. There are two major types of stroke: ischemic, commonly referred to as “dry strokes,” and, less commonly, hemorrhagic. In both instances, a portion of brain tissue is damaged by a lack of oxygen and blood flow, and that creates a stroke.

Timing is critical

When it comes to stroke, every minute counts. The sooner you get treated, the better your chance of survival and recovery. Getting to the ER or hospital within 90 minutes is ideal, two hours is still good and four hours is pushing the limits.