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Spot the Signs of Stroke FAST!

UPDATED: May 2021

The odds of a stroke happening to you or someone you know are quite high. One in six people are likely to suffer a stroke, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. As a result, brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they no longer get the oxygen and nutrients they need to function.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in adults. About 600,000 new strokes are reported nationwide each year.

Sometimes called a “brain attack,” a stroke can affect anyone at any age. People over 55 years old have a higher chance of stroke, and the risks increase with age. Men, African-Americans and people with diabetes or heart disease are most at risk.

Because stroke injures the brain, people in the midst of having a stroke may not realize what is happening. To others, someone who is having a stroke may just look confused, unaware or even intoxicated. Yet, stroke victims have the best chance of recovery if someone around them recognizes the symptoms and acts immediately. The goal: receiving medical treatment within 60 minutes of the onset of symptoms.

People having a stroke may experience some or all of these warning signs, some of which can be subtle:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

The signs of a stroke depend on the side of the brain that’s affected, the part of the brain affected and how severely the brain is injured. Sometimes it’s completely painless. Sometimes it is associated with a headache.

To easily remember the sudden signs, learn and remember “FAST.” When you spot these signs, you will know that you need to immediately call 911 for help.


Ask the person to smile. Is one side of the face drooping or numb?
If one arm is numb, ask the person to raise both arms. Does one
arm drift downward or is one unable to be raised?
Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”
Is his or her speech slurred?
Time to call 911. Even if the symptoms go away, get emergency help right away. Every minute counts.

North Oaks Health System is committed to offering our community high quality stroke care at both our Medical Center and Rehabilitation Hospital. North Oaks Medical Center has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check Mark for Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers. In addition, North Oaks Rehabilitation Hospital is one of five facilities in Louisiana to offer a Stroke Specialty Program certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and it’s the only one on the Northshore.

For more information on stroke, talk to your primary health care provider. You also can call the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association toll-free at (888) 478-7653 to learn more.