Before You Have a Stroke, Your Body Will Give You These Warning Signs — Don’t Ignore Them

A stroke is a terrifying, life-threatening medical emergency that can seem to come almost out of nowhere. The problem can affect many people, including an increasing number of millennials, Scientific American says. If someone is having a stroke, you need to act fast: experts say that if the problem is treated within 3 hours, there is still a good chance of recovery.

There are distinct warning signs that can help you catch the problem in time. The American Stroke Association (partner of the American Heart Association) has come up with an acronym to help you remember the most common symptoms: FAST, which stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911.

Sometimes an impending stroke will cause a person’s face to literally sag or droop. Other times, the person might just feel numbness of the left side of their body, especially in the face, leg, or arm. If you aren’t sure, ask the person to smile and/or to stick out their tongue. If they’re having a stroke, they’ll have trouble doing these normally simple tasks.

A stroke causes a person to lose muscle function, which is why their face can appear to droop. For the same reason, they may not be able to control their arms. Try another simple test: ask the person to lift both of their arms. If they’re having a stroke, they will have trouble doing this, or may not be able to raise their arms at all. In some cases, a person may be unable to walk, or even become paralyzed.

Speech problems are another classic stroke symptom. An affected person might have trouble speaking, or understanding others who try to talk to them. Ask the person to say a simple sentence, like “The sky is very blue today.” If their speech is slurred, or they can’t repeat the sentence back to you, a stroke could be to blame.  

Back in 2011, viewers thought that CBS reporter Serene Branson was having a stroke on-air when she began to speak incoherently during the Grammy Awards ceremony. The symptoms turned out to be caused by a serious migraine instead, but the episode did raise awareness of this particular stroke warning sign.

If you see someone displaying any of these symptoms, call 911. Do it right away–remember that if you act fast, you can save their life. Even if you aren’t sure if they’re “really” having a stroke, call anyway. In this case, safe is definitely better than sorry.

The FAST acronym helps us remember the most common warning signs of a stroke. There are other potential symptoms, however, according to the CDC. The person may:

  • Have trouble seeing
  • Become dizzy
  • Seem confused
  • Have a severe headache or
  • Lose consciousness

Basically, if you see any of these symptoms, act fast and call for medical help.

We hope the FAST acronym and an awareness of these other common stroke symptoms will help you recognize what to do if you’re ever faced with this medical emergency. Strokes can be scary, but this knowledge can help–and hopefully save a life.


The American Stroke Association

The Centers for Disease Control

Scientific American