Act FAST When You Suspect a Stroke

Published: December 02, 2014

Stroke, also called cerebral vascular accident (CVA), is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in adults. Stroke can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or even age. More women than men have strokes each year.

During a stroke, blood supply to part of the brain is reduced or stopped. A part of the brain does not receive enough oxygen and millions of brain cells die, increasing the risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death.

A common cause of blockage that leads to stroke is a blood clot or build-up of fatty deposits (arteriosclerosis) in the blood vessels that supply the brain. The reduction of blood flow results in an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke. Another common cause of a stroke is a leaking in the brain, or hemorrhagic stroke.

FAST is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of a stroke. When you spot the signs, you'll know that you need to call 911 right away. FAST stands for:

F - face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven?

A - arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S - speech difficulty: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is it repeated correctly?

T - time to call 911: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you will know when the symptoms first appeared.

How well you recover from a stroke, and how long it takes to recover, depend on the size and location of the stroke, how quickly you receive care and in some cases on other health conditions you may have. Rehabilitation begins very soon after your stroke. Physical therapy will help you relearn how to walk and rebuild strength. Occupational therapy will fit you with a wheelchair if needed, improve coordination and train you on devices that will assist with everyday activities. Speech language therapy teaches effective ways to communicate if speech or ability to understand are affected. Speech therapy can also help improve swallowing for those having trouble eating or drinking after a stroke.

The therapy staff on the campus of Passavant Community can help you recover from a stroke. Physical, occupational and speech therapists are available on an outpatient basis by calling (724) 452-3492 or via home health services at (877) 862-6659. Insurance covers therapy services as appropriate and a doctor's order is necessary.

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