A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or ruptures. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in adults. Almost 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year.
Stroke can happen to anyone at any time—regardless of race, sex, or even age—but more women than men have a stroke each year, and African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke than Caucasians. Approximately two-thirds of those who experience a stroke are over 65 years of age.
If you have 1 or more of the following symptoms, immediately call 911 or emergency medical services (EMS) so that an ambulance can be sent for you:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
If You Think Someone Might Be Having a Stroke
Act F.A.S.T.! Emergency treatment with a clot-buster drug called t-PA can help reduce or even eliminate problems from stroke, but it must be given within 3 hours of when symptoms start. Recognizing the symptoms can be easy by remembering to think F.A.S.T.
F=Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? A=Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? S=Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange? T=Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 and note the time that you think the stroke began.
Research shows that people with stroke who arrive at the hospital by ambulance receive quicker treatment than those who arrive by their own means.