Become Stroke Smart

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Time is Brain | Stroke Signs and Symptoms | How to Spot a Stroke | Training Tools and Quiz

Diagram of the brain with a close-up of blocked blood flow

Becoming Stroke Smart means answering just three questions correctly!

Question #1— What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to parts of the brain is interrupted. Roughly 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes (depicted below, courtesy of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke), meaning that a clot blocks blood flow in an artery to the brain where it is needed.


Question #2— What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

Most strokes involve facial drooping and arm weakness/numbness, especially on one side. Slurred speech is also common. Other symptoms may include sudden onset loss of balance/dizziness, changes in or loss of vision, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, and severe headache. Signs and symptoms depend on where the stroke occurs in the brain and can be different for each person, and for each stroke if a person suffers more than one.


Questions #3— What is the best way to stop a stroke?

Call 9-1-1 immediately! Don't drive yourself to the ER (your condition could worsen, causing you to crash and hurt yourself or someone else). Don't call your primary care doctor (waiting for an appointment, even that same day, wastes precious time as treatment must be delivered within 3 hours of onset). Don't have someone else drive you to the hospital (some emergency rooms are not equipped to deliver the necessary treatment).

Effective treatments are available when 911 is called immediately upon onset of symptoms.

Why it Matters: Time is Brain

During a stroke, time lost is brain function lost. Strokes are the #1 cause of disability in the U.S. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke; precious time is lost when the patient calls their primary care doctor rather than 911. Precious time is lost if the patient is driven to a hospital that is not able to treat strokes. Stroke treatment requires a specific mediation and a specifically trained staff and is therefore not available at every emergency room. When you spot a stroke, call 911. The ambulance staff are trained to take you to place best suited to treat your emergency.

A flow chart of the time it takes between discovering a stroke and getting the patient to a hospital
Click on the image to view a larger picture.

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Stroke Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a stroke can come and go. They can be different for different people; further, a second stroke suffered after a first may have different signs and symptoms. If you have these symptoms, DON'T wait thinking this will pass. The treatment window short; call 911 immediately if you experience (from the CDC's website):

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Classic stroke signs also include a droopy smile or an inability to raise one arm as shown below. This image on magnets and wallet cards is available free of charge for retention and easy recall; you may download and print your own copy of these materials on our Stay Stroke Smart webpage. Pass them out to your place of worship, rec center, and even doctor's office. Spread the word and save a life!

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How to spot a stroke and save a life — TEDx

Description: Six Million people die from stroke every year making it the second leading cause of death on the planet. Many of these lives can be saved by educating people how to Spot and Stop strokes. Alan who lost his entire family to stroke, has designed a learning aid he is giving to anyone who wants to join the effort to stop stokes and save countless lives.

Having spent 22 years biking through 28 countries, using phrasebooks and picture cut-outs to express needs and convey information, Alan was convinced of the power of pictures for communication. Upon his return to the US in 1989, he started Kwikpoint, a company that publishes picture-based communication tools to overcome language barriers.

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Strokes in Young People

A stroke can happen to anyone at any age. The American Heart Association created this documentary detailing the strokes and journey to full health of four teenage girls.



Stroke Smart Training Tools

Click below to start this simple, clear 9-minute video, useful for basic Stroke Smart training. A shorter, 3-minute Stroke Smart Training video is also available also available. Both videos are available for free download. The 9-minute file slides can be downloaded from Canva (you must create a free Canva account) and includes notes for a live presentation.

Both the training video and presentation are designed to be accompanied by the magnets printouts and wallet cards, available for free download on our Stay Stroke Smart webpage. If you prefer a more basic presentation, a Powerpoint version is also free to download.

Download Stroke Smart Basics Powerpoint / Download Stroke Smart Basics PDF version


Are you Stroke Smart?

Test your knowledge by playing our Stroke Smart Kahoot quiz!


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