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What are the symptoms that someone is having a stroke?

Char Leoni, Banner Baywood Medical Center



Char Leoni, RN, director of Nursing at Banner Baywood Medical Center.

Question: What do I do if I think someone is having a stroke?

Answer: If you or someone you know seems to be having a stroke, get to the hospital immediately. It can be extremely dangerous to wait. It is far better to find out that nothing is seriously wrong than to wait for the signs to progress.

In a stroke, every minute you wait means that more damage is being done and you may actually be excluding yourself from being a candidate for treatment. Certain medications must be given in the very early stages of a stroke (within three hours from the onset of symptoms) or cannot be given at all. 

Common warning signs of a stroke are sudden weakness, often on one side of the body or the other. This could range from a mild weakness or numbness to a complete paralysis. Other signs are difficulty speaking or making sense, difficulty swallowing, visual disturbances, and/or a headache.

The three questions that could save a person’s life:

  1. Can you smile? In a stroke often one side of the face will be weaker than the other, or paralyzed completely making a half smile or crooked smile.
  2. Can you lift both hands over your head? Again, one side may go up easily and the other side may feel heavy or dead.
  3. Can you speak a simple sentence? Slurred speech or the inability to make sense is a common sign. The term “expressive aphasia” is what happens when a person tries to say something and chooses the wrong words. Example: the person tries to say: “I hope everything turns out all right.” And instead says “I hope everything is over the top.”  
Page Last Modified: 01/08/2009
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