stroke care

Get a Head Start on Stroke

Know what to look for and how to reduce your risk

In a day and age when dangers seem to lurk around every corner, it’s tempting to resist thinking about health risks. However, by spending just a few minutes informing yourself about stroke, you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing it and learn how to spot the warning signs. By doing this, you may save your life or the life of another person.

Stroke risk factors

Stroke risk factors that cannot be controlled include age, family history, race and gender. In addition, people who have had a heart attack and those who have experienced a TIA (transient ischemic attack, or “warning stroke”) are at higher risk, and people who have already had a stroke are more likely than others to experience a subsequent stroke.

However, there are also many controllable risks factors, as well as steps anyone can take to lower stroke risk:

  • Keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • If you have diabetes, carotid and/or peripheral artery disease, atrial fibrillation or other heart disease, or sickle cell disease, carefully follow your doctor’s recommendations for controlling your condition.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Do at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity.

Learn the warning signs

The American Stroke Association uses the acronym FAST to help people learn and remember what to look for and how to react if they think someone is experiencing a stroke:

  • F is for face drooping. Does one side of the person’s face droop, or does the person say his or her face feels numb? When you ask the person to smile, is the smile uneven?
  • A is for arm weakness. Does the person report that one arm is weak or numb? When you ask him or her to raise both arms, does one arm drift downward?
  • S is for speech difficulty. Is the person’s speech slurred, or is he or she unable to speak or hard to understand? Can the person repeat a simple sentence back to you, such as “The sky is blue”?
  • T is for time to call 911. If someone shows any of the three symptoms above — even if the symptoms go away — call 911 immediately. If possible, be sure to note the time when the symptoms first appeared. That will help the medical team provide the most appropriate care to the person experiencing the stroke symptoms.

The American Stroke Association has developed a free FAST app that keeps information and resources regarding stroke right at your fingertips.

The app is available in the App Store and Google Play, or visit to learn more.

Help your care team help you

Take time today to make a list of the medications you take and any allergies you have. It is especially helpful to note any blood thinner, cholesterol or blood pressure medicine you take. Put that list in your wallet, purse, electronic device or anything else you regularly carry with you so it will be available to your care team in case of an emergency.