Stroke: First aid

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A stroke occurs when there's bleeding into your brain or when normal blood flow to your brain is blocked. Within minutes of being deprived of essential nutrients, brain cells start dying — a process that may continue over the next several hours.

Seek immediate medical assistance. A stroke is a true emergency. The sooner treatment is given, the more likely it is that damage can be minimized. Every moment counts.

In the event of a possible stroke, use FAST to help remember warning signs.

  • Face. Does the face droop on one side trying to smile?
  • Arms. Is one arm lower when trying to raise both arms?
  • Speech. Can a simple sentence be repeated? Is speech slurred or strange?
  • Time. During a stroke every minute counts. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately

Other signs and symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Weakness or numbness on one side of your body including either leg
  • Dimness, blurring or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
  • Severe headache — a bolt out of the blue — with no apparent cause
  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially if accompanied by any of the other signs or symptoms

Risk factors for stroke include having high blood pressure, having had a previous stroke, smoking, having diabetes and having heart disease. Your risk of stroke increases as you age.

Nov. 02, 2011