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What to Do if Someone’s Experiencing a Stroke

What to Do if Someone’s Experiencing a Stroke

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and we’ve got tips on what you should do in case someone around you is experiencing a stroke.

Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented, and just last January we posted many of the ways you can reduce your chances of a stroke, including quitting smoking, adding exercise to your daily routine and watching out for an abnormal heartbeat.

If you happen to be in the scary situation of witnessing a possible stroke, its crucial to be informed on how to help.

Heres what you should do if someone around you is experiencing a stroke:

Use FAST to remember the warning signs and what to do:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile and check to see if one side of their face drops.
  • Arms: Ask the person to lift both of their arms, and check to see if one drifts down.
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase back to you and check to see if their speech is slurred.
  • Time: If you notice any of these signs, call 911 immediately!

Signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially if it’s only on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one (or both) eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking because of dizziness
  • Sudden headache with no other known cause

When and if you have to call 911, the operator will want to know what time the symptoms started, so be sure to note that as it’s happening. They will ask specific questions as they walk you through what to do until the ambulance arrives. Strokes are a medical emergency, and every second counts in dealing with them.

“After an acute stroke, time is of the essence,” says Matthew D. Vibbert, MD, assistant professor of neurology and neurological surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “The sooner a person suffering a stroke gets to an emergency room, the more likely doctors will be able to restore blood flow to the affected area, saving brain cells. The more brain cells we save, the better the chances for a good recovery.”

It’s also important not to give food, medicine or water to a potential stroke victim. “Although most strokes are caused by blockage in an artery, some strokes are caused by bleeding from an artery that burst,” says Daniel Labovitz, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein University College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “Giving aspirin to someone with this condition could make it worse.”

Stay positive! “Try to concentrate on the situation and remind yourself that you are doing everything you can to help,” says Danielle Haskins, MD, medical director of the Stroke Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. “Reassure your loved one that you aren’t going anywhere and that help is on the way.”

What to expect at the hospital:

Doctors will diagnose the stroke and then decide the treatment.

  • Arrival at the hospital: Patient or loved one will provide a detailed medical history and information about any past medical conditions. Remember, it’s helpful if you know the time that stroke symptoms began.
  • Initial tests will rule out any other conditions that have symptoms similar to a stroke.
  • Doctors will determine the type of stroke through a CT scan/MRI of the brain.
  • The hospital will begin treatment.
  • Other assessments that might occur: EKG; blood tests, including complete blood count, blood sugar, blood clotting time, electrolytes, liver and kidney function; MRI to find out the amount of damage to the brain; carotid ultrasound if narrowing of a carotid artery is suspected; MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram).
“When they get the help they need, most patients improve enough to return home and function independently, even if they have some permanent symptoms,” says Labovitz. “It is helpful to know that a stroke usually starts out at its most severe and then improves, sometimes very quickly. There is a lot of room for hope. Staying calm and thinking clearly can really help.”
Care2, have you ever dealt with a stroke before, or been with a loved one who has? What advice would you give others who want to prepare for what to do in case of a stroke? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Sources:, Everyday Health

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Lo Lankford

Lo Lankford is a recent Los Angeles transplant after a decade in the Big Apple. In her "spare time" (ha!) she used to run a dog rescue called Badass Brooklyn and helped save over 400 dogs. Otherwise? Nerd'do well, whistle blower, proud hillbilly from the sticks.


+ add your own
8:04AM PDT on Sep 12, 2014

FYI That person calls me Doctor to this day!

8:03AM PDT on Sep 12, 2014

I saved a fellow human being because of these symptoms. I didn't know the symptoms at the time over 20 years ago but I knew something was wrong and insisted he go to ER. I would do it again for anyone I saw going through this.

4:55PM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Grateful for such important info!!

4:55PM PDT on Jun 10, 2014

Grateful for such important info!!

6:07AM PDT on Jun 10, 2014


11:05AM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Thanks for the article.

9:46AM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

I had one several years ago, could not talk at all, but could walk. however you are very scared and do not think, I was alone and should have dialled 911, but was not thinking at all. Had to wait until my hubby came home from shopping, before going to the hospital. If we could impress on our minds that in the event of a stroke and you are alone call 911 to get immediate help it would be much better.

4:58AM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

Thank you - good advice.

5:39AM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

Thank you

2:56AM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

Thanks for posting.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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