With the recent passing of actor Luke Perry from a massive stroke this month at only 52 years of age, the attention becomes focused on if there were warning signs that could have prevented the loss of life. Coupled with the misconception that strokes only affect the elderly, it’s prudent to become aware of signs and symptoms of stroke. Furthermore, if someone is suffering from a stroke, it’s critical to get medical attention right away, as it may minimize the long-term effects and prevent death.

What is a stroke?

A stroke, often referred to as a “brain attack,” is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.

Act F.A.S.T. to Identify a Stroke in Progress

F – Face drooping. Is one side of the person’s face drooping or numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven?
A – Arm weakness. Is the person experiencing weakness or numbness in one arm? Have the person raise both arms. Does one of the arms drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty. Is the person’s speech suddenly slurred or hard to understand? Is he or she unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Can he or she repeat it back?
T – Time to call 9-1-1. If any of these symptoms are present, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Check the time so you can report when the symptoms began.