A stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is stopped and the brain cells start dying. Strokes can happen to people of any age, but more than a third of those hospitalized are under 65 years old, according to MedicineNet. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking are big risk factors.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke emphasizes that time is of the essence when someone is having a stroke. Treatment within the hour can prevent long-term disability or death. There are warning signs for a stroke way ahead of when it will happen. Some of these signs can happen hours, days and sometimes weeks in advance. Here are seven early warning signs.
1) Face drooping. Does one side of the face look lopsided or droopy? The American Stroke Association suggests asking the affected person to smile so you can see if their smile is uneven or lopsided.
2) Arm weakness. People experiencing a stroke often have sudden weakness or numbness in their body, and it's usually concentrated on one side. WebMD suggests asking them to raise their arms above their head - can they do it? Is one arm significantly lower than the other?
3) Speech difficulty. People affected by a stroke often have trouble speaking clearly and tend to slur their words. Healthline suggests asking the person to repeat what they are saying to be sure whether they are slurring.
4) Severe headache. According to WebMD, a sudden and severe headache can be a symptom of stroke, especially when paired with other symptoms. Note that a couple of these symptoms can occur in the case of a migraine, too, so it could be worth asking the person if the headache is out of the ordinary. If in doubt, call for medical help.
5) Changes in vision. MedicineNet advises that sudden double vision or blindness in one eye can be a sign of an impending stroke.
6) Confusion. The American Stroke Association lists sudden confusion as a key symptom. This can mean an uncharacteristic inability to understand other people or articulate thoughts.
7) Balance issues. Someone suffering from a stroke may experience sudden issues with balance and coordination, according to MedicineNet. If you're unsure, you could ask them to touch their finger to their nose, or walk in a straight line.
Time is of the essence when you or someone else is showing the early warning signs of a stroke. If you can't remember all the signs, then memorize this pneumonic from the American Stroke Association: "FAST" stands for Face drooping + Arm weakness + Speech difficulty = Time to call 911.