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How to tell if you’ve had a stroke

Updated: January 23, 2012 4:03PM

Worried that you or someone you know may have just had a stroke? Doctors recommend going through the tests represented by the four-letter acronym FAST — so-named because quick care can be the difference between a minor episode and a debilitating or life-threatening disaster.

F: Face. Check for numbness or weakness in the face. Try to smile. If it’s hard to do, you may have had a stroke (or you’re just an old sourpuss). The affects are often different on each side of the face.

A: Arms. Try to raise both at once. If one doesn’t go up well, that can be a sign of muscle weakness associated with strokes. Walking may be difficult too, due to weakness or lack of balance.

S: Sentence. Say one. Is it slurred? Do you have a hard time concentrating or coming up with words? Confusion and dizziness are bad signs.

T: Time. Don’t waste it. Call 911 and make sure everybody knows you suspect a stroke.

Other possible indications include: sudden severe headache, difficulty seeing with one or both eyes; difficulty understanding speech; shortness of breath or even hiccups.

And if you think you’ve had a stroke, avoid driving. A condition that makes you too weak to move your arms or legs properly, and too confused to talk, is bad for driving, the National Highway Transportation Administration points out.

Sources: American Stroke Association,,

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