May is National Stroke Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to review the symptoms of a stroke. Understanding the warning signs and quickly getting help can save a life and lower the risk of damaging effects. According to the American Stroke Association, it is “the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S.” An individual can lose around 1.9 million brain cells each minute a stroke is untreated, making early detection and treatment imperative. Learn how you can B.E. F.A.S.T. when responding to a stroke emergency.


Be alert for sudden changes in balance or walking. These changes could include unusual dizziness or rapid loss of coordination.


Be mindful of unusual variations in eyesight, such as loss of vision or double vision. Changes could be present in one or both eyes.

Facial Droop

Your face can experience muscle weakness or paralysis during a stroke, which can cause one side of the face to droop. If you suspect a stroke, ask the individual to smile. If you notice the smile is unusually crooked, or they cannot move part of their face, seek help immediately.

Arm Weakness

Muscle weakness from a stroke can be evident in the extremities. If you notice one arm is uncharacteristically and suddenly weaker than the other, this could be a warning sign. Ask the individual to raise both arms. If one arm starts to droop downward while the other stays lifted, call 911 for emergency help.

Slurred Speech

A stroke will typically affect one’s speech. Be alert for suddenly slurred words or unusual difficulty finding the right words to say.


Time is of the essence when it comes to a stroke and proper treatment. Get help or call 911 immediately. Note when symptoms initially began and how long they’ve continued. Be ready to give this information to the healthcare provider so the correct treatment can begin quickly.


Other Symptoms to Be Aware Of

While the symptoms above are the most common warning signs of a stroke, there are still a few more to know. Muscle weakness in the face or extremities could also exhibit numbness. Someone having a stroke can appear uncharacteristically confused. An intense and unexplained headache can also be present. If anything seems unusual, don’t wait and get help right away.

If you or someone you’re with shows any stroke symptoms, B.E. F.A.S.T. and call 911 immediately.

Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP

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