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A Closer Look at Stroke: Warning Signs

Similar to heart attacks, strokes or "brain attacks" occur suddenly and are marked by trademark warning signs. During the course of a stroke, brain cells are dying; thus time loss equals brain loss. By knowing the warning signs of stroke you will be able to protect yourself and look out for those around you. The sooner that a person experiencing a stroke gets help, the better the chance of avoiding brain damage.


Warning Signs

Warning signs occur suddenly and should be taken very seriously. If a person exhibits one or more of these symptoms they are most likely about to have a stroke.

These warning signs can also be condensed into an acronym called FAST:

F- Face is weak, numb or unable to be moved by the person

A- Arm or leg is weak or immobile

S- Speech is slurred

T- Time: the longer the person exhibits these symptoms, the more danger they will be in

The chance of a patient having a stroke is 75 percent if one of these symptoms occurs and 80 percent if three or more of these traits occur.


Symptoms of a Bleeding Stroke

Some strokes are hemorrhagic, meaning that they are caused by bleeding and swelling of the brain. The following symptoms suggest brain bleeding:

These symptoms can be brought on by a variety of factors. If a person is exhibiting the symptoms above and has a history of high blood pressure or other risk factors, takes blood thinners, or has had a previous stroke or brain surgery, they are most likely having a stroke. Be sure to tell your doctors if you or your loved ones have this history.


Immediate Action

The longer the victim loses blood flow to the brain, the more extensive the damage. Sometimes people experiencing these symptoms are too dizzy or mentally disoriented to call for help themselves, let alone recognize that they are having a brain attack. Therefore, it is absolutely vital to dial (9-1-1) as soon as a person exhibits one or more of these warning signs or symptoms.


Sudden Ending of Symptoms

Although these symptoms will start suddenly, they may also end suddenly. This does not mean that the patient is not having a stroke. Instead, the ending of symptoms means the patient had a mini-stroke, also known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). Mini-strokes should still be taken very seriously, because they may lead to a more dangerous brain attack. Patients should still be given immediate medical care even if their symptoms have ended.


When Stroke is not the Cause

The symptoms of strokes can also point to other diseases. If a patient is taken into a hospital but isn't actually having a brain attack, one of these conditions may be the cause.


Hope Through Research - You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about stroke. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:


For more information:

Go to the Stroke health topic, where you can:

This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Sep 29, 2011

Anthony J Furlan, MD Anthony J Furlan, MD
Professor and Chair of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

Warren R Selman, MD Warren R Selman, MD
Professor and Chair of Neurological Surgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University