Every second counts if you or someone you love is having a stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Just a few hours can make the difference between recovery or learning to walk and talk all over again—or worse still—death. If you think you might be having a stroke, don’t wait, note the time, call 911, and say,
“I think I’m having a stroke. Please take me to the nearest stroke treatment center as quickly as possible.”
You should also call 911 if someone you’re with might be having a stroke. Don’t hesitate. Every moment you wait increases that person’s risk of permanent disability.
You only have three hours from the time of your first symptom to receive treatment that can minimize the damage to your brain that can cause serious, long-term, disabilities. If you get to the hospital and it’s not a stroke—that’s wonderful news! If it is a stroke, you’ll get the help you need.
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Learn the two things Dr. J. P. Reilly, Ochsner Medical Center, insists you should do if you think you’re having a stroke.
Save precious time—know and respond quickly to the warning signs of stroke:
Most of us have headaches or clumsy spells now and then. But the symptoms of stroke will seem unusual and come on suddenly. Call 911 if you or someone you’re with notices these unexplained, sudden warning signs:
- A feeling of numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg (You might notice it on one side more than the other.)
- Vision problems in one or both eyes
- Dizziness or loss of balance; difficulty walking
- Problems speaking or understanding what other people are saying
- Severe headaches without warning or explanation
Women may have the same symptoms as men, but they’ve also reported a few others. These symptoms also happen suddenly and unexpectedly:
- Pains in the face or legs
- Feeling weak all over
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart beat
Strokes are painless, but don’t let that stop you from getting help. And, don’t assume that if the symptoms stop before you call 911 that you’re okay. You might have had a TIA or what’s also known as a mini-stroke. Even though you feel better, and it seems like the problem has passed, according to the National Stroke Association, 1 in 20 people who have a mini-stroke have another stroke in the next two days. Just like a stroke, a mini-stroke requires immediate care and follow-up medical treatment to control any risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Quick Check for Stroke—It Can Save a Life
If you’re with someone and you notice a sudden change in appearance or behavior, make sure it’s not a stroke. Ask them to do these three simple things—
- Smile—Is it the smile you know and love? Or, is one corner of the mouth drooping down?
- Close your eyes and raise your arms—Are the arms held high together, or is one drifting back down to the side?
- Repeat a simple phrase—Why not make it funny? If the person is fine, you can laugh about it later. Try “If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.” Listen for slurred words and unusual sounding speech.
If you notice a droopy, lopsided smile, one arm held lower than the other or drifting down on its own, or slurred speech without reasonable explanations, call 911 immediately and tell them that you’re with someone who needs to get to a stroke treatment center as quickly as possible.
What is a stroke? Why is it so serious?
A stroke is an interruption of the blood flow to the brain. When the blood supply to a part of the brain is restricted or cut off, the affected brain cells can die. That’s why it’s so important to be treated for stroke as soon as possible. Your brain is involved in everything you do—walking, talking, stopping to smell the roses—whatever you enjoy doing. If the part of the brain involved in those activities is damaged by the stroke, you might not be able to do those things anymore. So don’t wait. Take care of your brain—Call 911.
Stroke Treatment and Prevention
Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death even though 80 percent of strokes are preventable. You’ll find more information on the treatment and prevention of stroke in SecondsCount’s Treatment & Prevention section on Stroke Treatment and Prevention by clicking here.
Talk to your doctor about stroke if you’ve had a stroke or if you or someone you love is at risk. Click here for Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Stroke to download important questions you might want to ask your doctor.