How to Quickly Identify Stroke

The more quickly stroke can be treated, the greater the chance a life can be saved and perhaps lessen some of the after effects.

Surgeon With Digital Tablet Visiting Senior Male Patient In Hospital Bed In Geriatric Unit

Identifying stroke quickly is critical. However, 70 percent of the 800,000 stroke victims in the U.S. every year arrive at a hospital six hours or later after the onset of symptoms.

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Stroke is an emergency situation. The degree of brain function lost depends on the type of stroke, its location, and in most cases, how quickly it is treated.

Yet, only 40 percent of Americans can recognize the major symptoms of a stroke. The other 60 percent may have a vague idea, and they could easily miss signs and not take immediate, life-saving action. And 70 percent of the 800,000 stroke victims in the U.S. every year arrive at a hospital six hours or later after the onset of symptoms.

Although the most familiar stroke symptoms are dramatic—paralysis, confusion, difficulty speaking, for example—symptoms for some types of strokes may not be visible at all.

Regardless of the cause, the type of stroke, or the symptoms, time is of the essence. Knowing what to look for and what to do can save a life and perhaps make some of the after effects less serious.

Quick, Simple Stroke Assessment Tools

Various organizations have promoted ways to help people recognize the symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses the word “sudden” and the acronym “FAST” to get our attention.


  • Sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis, typically affecting only one side of the body, including or excluding the face
  • Sudden difficulty swallowing, chewing, or moving the tongue
  • Sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes
  • Sudden confusion Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble walking or loss of coordination


The National Stroke Association uses the acronym FAST. Fast action can help stroke patients get the treatment they need. Treatments that works best are those administered within three hours of first symptoms. If you think someone may be having a stroke, conduct the test below and call 9-1-1 if you observe any of the symptoms.

  • F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face 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. Is the speech slurred or strange?
  • T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

be fast stroke prevention

The CDC says to note the time when symptoms appear and then get help. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.


The acronym STR refers to three tests to give someone you think may be suffering a stroke. If he or she has trouble with any of the three, call for help, but know that some people who pass the test may still be having a stroke.

  • S—Ask the person to smile.
  • T—Ask the person to talk.
  • R—Ask the person to raise both arms.


CPSS is not an acronym but the name of the Cincinnati Pre-Hospital Stroke Scale. CPSS is a three-part variation of the STR test. The caregiver asks the patient to do three things:

  • “Show me your teeth” is used to detect if one side of the face is weak. One-sided facial weakness is a classic sign of a stroke.
  • “Close your eyes and raise both arms (to the same height)” is something a person having a stroke may not be able to do because of weakness on one side.
  • Say, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” Slurred speech is sign of a stroke.

Other Stroke Symptoms

  • Sensation of spinning (vertigo)
  • Double vision (seeing two objects when there is only one)
  • Tendency to look toward or away from the side of the body affected by weakness
  • Partial or total paralysis
  • Inability to assemble, construct, or draw objects
  • Unawareness or neglect of the neurological deficit or the inability to recognize body parts
  • Inability to make decisions or lack of willpower
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Excruciating headache that may be accompanied by vomiting and a stiff neck Seizures
  • Aggressive behavior: shouting obscenities, hitting, biting, or becoming agitated
  • Loss of consciousness

Non-Traditional Stroke Symptoms

Women are more likely than men to experience non-traditional symptoms that may not be understood as a stroke. Because these symptoms are easily misunderstood, they are less likely to trigger a 911 call. The three non-traditional symptoms are:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness

To learn about stroke, purchase the Stroke report, written by the editors of Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor.

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Jim Brown, PhD

As a former college professor of health education, Jim Brown brings a unique perspective to health and medical writing. He has authored 14 books on health, medicine, fitness, and sports. … Read More

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