Recognizing the Signs

When a stroke happens, recognizing and responding to signs quickly can make all the difference




The irony of the moment couldn’t have been more obvious that day. During lunch with her friend, Julie Voigt of San Diego, California, said, "I’m really lucky that I didn’t have a stroke. My family has a real, real history of it, with my aunt…"

Just then her words slurred and she leaned to one side, unable to hold herself up. Julie’s luck had run out.

Immediately someone called 9-1-1 and Julie was rushed to a hospital where she received a clot-busting drug, which didn’t fully work. The clot was still there, so her doctor used a clot retrieval device.

Quick recognition of Julie’s stroke signs and a speedy 9-1-1 call, combined with lightning-fast EMS response and hospital staff expertise saved her life and enabled a full recovery.

Someone like Julie has a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States.

During American Stroke Month in May, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association asks all Americans to learn two things that may save a life:

  1. Know if you are at risk for stroke.
  2. Know the stroke warning signs and what to do in a stroke emergency.

"Knowing if you are at risk for stroke is highly important, because many risk factors can be modified and controlled," said Jeffrey L. Saver, M.D., professor of neurology and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at University of California Los Angeles, and American Stroke Association spokesperson. "The number one stroke risk factor is high blood pressure. It’s important to check your blood pressure regularly and talk to your doctor about healthy levels for you."

The American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative provides information and tools to help prevent, treat and beat stroke. Our free stroke risk assessment helps individuals evaluate their personal stroke risk and work with their doctor to begin a prevention plan.

Together to End Stroke, nationally sponsored by Medtronic, a global healthcare product company, teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people to recognize a stroke and what to do if one occurs:

F — Face Drooping

A — Arm Weakness

S — Speech Difficulty

T — Time to call 9-1-1

"Prevention is the best cure, but in the event of a stroke emergency, quick recognition and treatment may have a dramatic impact on the outcome," said Mark Turco, M.D., chief medical officer, Covidien Vascular Therapies. "If you are at risk for stroke or spend time with someone who is, learning and sharing the stroke warning signs should be a priority."

Additional stroke signs include: Sudden severe headache with no known cause; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.

Together to End Stroke offers a free "Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T." mobile app for iOS and Android, including the warning signs and a searchable map to find local hospitals recognized for heart and stroke care.

We encourage you to share this story with others during American Stroke Month in May. Together we can end stroke.

Watch Julie’s story and the people who helped her get help F.A.S.T.

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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Departments

Stroke Notes

Stroke-related news you can use about new scientific findings, public policy, programs and resources.

Readers Room

Articles, poems and art submitted by stroke survivors and their loved ones.

Life Is Why

Everyone has a reason to live a longer, healthier life. These stroke survivors, caregivers and others share their 'whys'. We'd love for you to share yours, too!

Everyday Survival

Practical tips and advice for day-to day living after stroke.

Life At The Curb

A unique perspective on survival by comedian and stroke survivor John Kawie.

Simple Cooking

Cooking at home can be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for your diet and lifestyle (and your wallet). Making small changes in your diet is important to your heart health. Here are simple, healthy and affordable recipes and cooking tips.

Helping Others Understand

Stroke affects people differently and many of the effects of stroke can be complicated. Helping friends and family understand how a stroke is affecting a survivor can help everyone involved.

Support Showcase

Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!