How to identify signs of stroke

Know stroke signs, spread the word


May is National Stroke Month. It is the perfect time to learn how to recognize the symptoms of stroke, a type of medical emergency where blood flow to the brain suddenly stops.

Early recognition of stroke signs is the most important step in getting the patient to treatment in time to lessen or prevent permanent disability. The best treatments occur in Certified Stroke Centers because their standards of care provide better patient outcomes.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the No. 1 cause of adult disability. Stroke frequently takes people out of the workplace and makes them dependent on others for care and support. Every year, about 800,00 Americans have a stroke, according to research in a presentation made by Senior Director Health Care Quality and Systems Improvement of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, Deb Motz, MS, BSN, RN, SCRN.

Stroke can occur at any age. One out of five people who have a stroke are under age 55, according to a factsheet on

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped by a blocked or burst blood vessel causing loss of function. There are different types of stroke with different treatments for each type. Every stroke treatment has a treatment time frame, but all require immediate treatment in an emergency department, preferably at a Stroke Center Certified Hospital. Without treatment, an area the size of a pea dies every 12 minutes in the brain, according to the American Heart Association. Time, is truly, brain.

Risk factors for stroke include age, race, gender, prior stroke and family history. While there are no ways to modify those factors, there are other risk factors that can be lessened. Controlling diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and heart disease are some ways to lessen stroke risk. Stopping smoking, alcohol and illicit drug use, changing poor diet and sedentary lifestyle are others, according to Motz’s presentation.

Prompt treatment for stroke best occurs when the family, friends or co-workers of the stroke patient recognize the signs of stroke and seek immediate treatment by calling 911. B.E.F.A.S.T. is one way to remember the signs of stroke, as outlined on

  • B- loss of balance or coordination, sudden dizziness
  • E- sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • F- facial unevenness or uneven smile
  • A- unable to raise both arms evenly, weakness
  • S- speech impaired, slurred or difficulty speaking
  • T- time to call 911 immediately

The so-called “mini-strokes” are transient ischemic attacks (TIA). These are stroke-like symptoms that usually resolve within 60 minutes and cause no permanent damage. Do not wait to see if symptoms will go away on their own! The person still needs to be evaluated at a Certified Stroke Center.

What if the symptoms do go away? That is terrific, but the TIA could be a warning that a big stroke is about to occur. About one-third of TIA patients have a future stoke and about half of those happen within 48 hours of the TIA. TIA patients can be treated with medication and other medical intervention can reduce their risk of a stroke, but they must be evaluated, Motz said.

A Certified Stroke Center Hospital, such as Bellville Medical Center, has a plan in place to care for every stroke patient. Stroke teams are prepared to perform rapid imaging and blood tests, rapid reports by the laboratory and radiologist with treatment within one hour of arrival. This lessens the threat of permanent disability for the person and improves their outcomes.

Stroke is an emergency. Call 911 if stroke is suspected. Better outcomes begin with stroke signs being recognized by family, friends, and co-workers, it said on


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