How to recognize stroke symptoms

A stroke is when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. (Image courtesy of Flicker user Okanapuncture.)

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.

A stroke is a medical emergency and a person suffering from a stroke needs medical assistance right away.

There are several symptoms to watch for, if someone is suffering from a stroke. Someone may have trouble speaking or understanding someone who is speaking to them. They might feel numbness or paralysis on one side of their body. Ask the person to try raising both arms over their head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, they may be having a stroke. Someone also might have a severe headache, followed by vomiting.

If you are wondering if someone is having a stroke, think “FAST” and do the following:

  • Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to raise up?
  • Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
  • If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.


A stroke may be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Some people may experience only a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain, or a transient ischemic attack, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are several risk factors that may increase the chances of suffering from a stroke. Being overweight, heavy drinking, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes can lead to having a stroke.

A stroke can cause temporary or long-lasting outcomes. Someone can suffer from paralysis on one side of their body. Physical therapy may help someone return to activities hindered by paralysis, such as walking, eating and dressing oneself. People might have difficult speaking or swallowing. They also may become depressed and have a hard time handling their emotions.

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About Sara Brown

Sara Brown is the Sampan health editor.
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