A stroke occurs when a vessel in the brain is blocked or when bleeding occurs in the brain.  It is a true medical emergency and help should be sought immediately if a stroke is suspected.

But how can you identify a stroke? Remember these three letters: STR

The Smiling Test

Ask the affected individual to smile.  If the smile is crooked or one corner of the mouth doesn’t move as much as the other, this should be considered a positive sign that a stroke has occurred.   You should immediately call 911 for an ambulance.

The Talking Test

Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.  If they seem confused, slur their words, or are unable to speak the sentence clearly, they could be having a stroke.  Again, call 911 immediately.

The (Arm) Raising Test

Have the person raise both arms.  If one arm is slower then another or the individual cannot bring their arms level, call an ambulance.

Time is critical in evaluating a stroke.  Many times, a stroke can be reversed or the effects lessened if the person starts treatment before three hours has passed.  This means that the stroke must be identified, the patient must be taken to the hospital, and medicine must be given in this time frame.  The sooner the medicine is started, the better for the patient.

Strokes can be debilitating if not deadly.  Facial droop, slurred speech, and paralysis are all signs of a stroke and can be permanent if care is not received quickly.  Because lay people often miss strokes, only two percent of patients reach the emergency room in time for medication to reverse it.

Sometimes, symptoms can disappear after the initial onset.  This can happen in a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), a type of mini stroke that can be a sign of major medical problems.  Because of this, the person still needs to be evaluated in an emergency room.  Even disappearing stroke symptoms must be taken seriously.

Women can present with different signs of a TIA then men.  Women who experience confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, or headaches could be experiencing a mini stroke.  Though many women do not wish to see a doctor after these symptoms have passed, it is important for them to be evaluated to prevent a full stroke from occurring.

Learning to recognize the signs of a stroke or transient ischemic attack could save the life of someone you love.

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