American Stroke Association uses the acronym FAST to help people identify when they are having a stroke. Know the warning signs so you get help fast.

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How to Know if You're Having a Stroke

(DECEMBER 2013) Each year, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer strokes, an event that results from a sudden disruption in blood flow to part of the brain. This disruption deprives the affected area of oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to die within minutes. On average, someone in the United States dies from stroke every four minutes. The key to surviving a stroke is recognizing it quickly and taking appropriate steps to get medical attention.

The American Stroke Association uses the acronym F.A.S.T. as a way to help people remember the sudden signs of a stroke.

F – Face Drooping

One side of your face suddenly droops lower than the other or becomes numb. You may not be able to raise one side of your mouth if you attempt to smile.

A – Arm Weakness

One arm becomes numb or weak. If you raise both arms, one may drift back down.

S – Speech Difficulty

Speech becomes slurred or very difficult. You may not be able to communicate even simple sentences so that others understand.

T – Time to Call 9-1-1

If you or someone nearby experiences any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately – even if the symptoms stop. Every minute lost could mean permanent loss of brain function. Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first symptoms tend to be healthier three months after a stroke than those who delayed. Note the time when symptoms began and share it with medical responders.

Other stroke symptoms to watch for include sudden leg numbness or weakness, confusion, trouble seeing, sudden dizziness, loss of coordination and severe headache without a known cause.

One in four strokes is recurrent (meaning it’s the second, third, etc. stroke for the same person), so it’s important to wear a medical ID bracelet to provide first responders important health information if you’re not able to communicate effectively.