When someone is having a stroke, every minute counts. Knowing what to look for so you can call 9-1-1 quickly might help save their life — and prevent serious brain damage. Learning how you can reduce your risk for stroke might also keep you from ever having to experience one yourself.

What Does a Stroke Look Like?

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain gets blocked, either from a blood clot or blood vessel that’s burst. Brain cells quickly start to become damaged and symptoms show up in parts of the body controlled by those brain cells. For both men and women, that can include sudden:

Confusion or trouble speaking

Weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg

Severe headache with no known cause

Trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Trouble walking or loss of balance

Getting emergency help right away can help save brain tissue and prevent long-term disability or death. Some treatments also need to be given within the first three hours to be effective.

How to B.E. F.A.S.T.

One way to remember what to do in case of stroke is to “B. E. F.A.S.T.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend checking:

B = Balance: Sudden onset balance problems or unsteadiness

E = Eyes: Sudden onset eye problems like vision loss or double vision

F = Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side 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. Are the words slurred?

T = Time: If the person shows any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately.

It’s better to call 9-1-1 rather than to drive yourself or someone else to the hospital, because emergency responders can start treatment in the ambulance on the way. They will also make sure the hospital is ready with the right equipment and medicines upon arrival.

Reducing Your Risk

A stroke can have serious consequences, but you can reduce your risk. In fact, about four out of every five strokes are preventable.

Common medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or diabetes can greatly increase your risk of stroke. Talk to your doctor to understand if you have any of these conditions, and how to manage them through lifestyle changes and medication. And keep up with healthy habits such as:

Eating a wholesome diet that includes fruits and vegetables

Getting enough exercise (the CDC recommends 150 minutes a week)

Limiting your alcoholic drinks

Quitting smoking or not starting

Understanding the risk factors for stroke — and recognizing the signs and quickly taking action could save a life, including your own.

Take a pause for your health – the quick heart health risk assessment is easy check in on your heart health.

Minas Gebru, MD, is a neurologist with Anne Arundel Medical Group (AAMG) Neurology Specialists. To make an appointment, call 443-481-6700.

This content is provided by Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center. Learn more at luminishealth.org.