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Think ‘FAST’ to catch signs of stroke

May 15, 2010
Submitted by Sue Cridland RN BSN, Director of Community Education for HealthLink Littauer

Time to learn more about what to do when a stroke occurs and what causes this medical emergency.

If you think someone is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. The victim may die or become disabled if you wait to see if the symptoms go away.

During a stroke, a person's brain is suddenly cut off from blood, its source of nutrition, by a blood clot or a broken blood vessel. Without oxygen and nutrients, the brain cannot function properly and starts to die. It is critical that victims receive treatment within three hours of the onset of any symptom to reduce the risk of permanent damage.

Every 45 seconds, someone suffers a stroke nationally. In 2007, New York state had 5,822 deaths due to this disease of the circulatory system. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in New York and the leading cause of long-term disability.

Unlike a heart attack, the symptoms of a stroke are often uncomfortable but not terribly painful. Someone who is having a stroke may suddenly feel confused. He or she may have trouble speaking or understanding others. His or her face, arm, leg or one side of the body may feel weak or numb. In addition, stroke victims may have trouble seeing out of one or both eyes, or they may have trouble walking (dizziness, loss of balance or coordination). A stroke victim also might have a sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

To recall the most common warning signs of a stroke, think "FAST."

F sudden drooping of the FACE on one side

A sudden weakness in one ARM

S sudden slurring of SPEECH

T TIME to call 911

It is important to know how to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. To prevent a stroke, get a regular checkup, make healthy food choices, control your weight and blood pressure, and be physically active on all or most days of the week.

Remember, you are at greater risk of having a stroke if you are 55 or older, have a family history of stroke, have high blood pressure, smoke, have diabetes, or have heart or vascular disease.

For more information on stroke, visit or the New York State Department of Health website at

For more information, people also can call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120, e-mail the organization at, visit its website at People also can visit its wellness center at 213 Harrison St. Ext., Johnstown, from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



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