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Stroke: Know the Symptoms — Act FAST

Imagine your family enjoying a holiday meal together, and suddenly your aunt stops talking. One side of her face begins to droop. You ask what’s wrong, and her speech is slurred as she tries to answer. You think she’s having a stroke — but you’re not sure what to do. Your nephew wants to call 911, but your uncle thinks driving to the hospital will be faster. What should you do?

Knowing the signs of stroke is critical — and so is knowing what to do when you see them. Here’s a FAST look at how to identify stroke symptoms, and what to do next.

Symptoms of stroke

The acronym FAST can help you recognize stroke symptoms and take action quickly.


One side of the face begins to droop.


One arm feels weak or numb.


Speech may be slurred.


Time is critical. Call 911.

What to do if you see stroke symptoms:

Call 911.

Stroke is a medical emergency. Unless you’re steps from a hospital, it’s better to call for an ambulance. Paramedics will arrive quickly and can begin treatment before reaching the hospital.

Don’t drive.

If you are having a stroke, driving is unsafe. Call 911 instead. If someone else is having a stroke, it’s still better to call 911 so the patient may be treated sooner.

Take action.

While you’re waiting for the ambulance, follow the 911 operator’s instructions, give your address and phone number, and unlock the door. Place the person on his or her side with his or her head raised and supported. Loosen the patient’s clothing to ensure he or she can breathe easily. If the person is unconscious and isn’t breathing, begin CPR.

Note the time.

The clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) must be given within a few hours of when symptoms start, so be sure to write down the time the patient was last seen without symptoms.

Don’t give food, drinks, or medication.

Eating or drinking may cause the person to choke, and giving medication, such as aspirin, could exacerbate symptoms.

Methodist Dallas Medical Center is a Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center.

This is the highest level of stroke certification a hospital can achieve. Methodist Dallas is also one the few hospitals that offer endovascular stroke intervention, which allows medical teams to see clots inside blood vessels and remove them surgically. Endovascular intervention can be performed up to 24 hours after the first signs of stroke.

“Stroke is as serious as a heart attack, but instead of your heart not working, your brain isn’t,” says Michelle Steiner, stroke program coordinator. “If you think you’re having a stroke, call 911 immediately. If we are able to deliver the clot-busting drug or perform surgery in time, you could have a better chance of leaving with little to no disability — but if you wait, it could be too late.”

FAST tips to go

Print our free bookmark to keep these stroke tips on hand in case of an emergency. Click here to download it.