Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States — according to 2010 National Vital Statistics — and a major cause of long-term disability, so knowing the symptoms is important.
Call 911 when one or more of these sudden symptoms occur:
- Numbness or weakness of the limbs or face, especially on one side of the body
- Facial paralysis (one side droops, drooling)
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Mental confusion
- Vision problems
- Dizziness, difficulty walking
- Extremely painful headache
If you think someone is having a stroke:
- Call 911
- Do not give aspirin, which thins the blood. Without knowing which kind of stroke is occurring, taking aspirin could cause more damage, says Larry B. Goldstein, M.D., director of the Duke University Stroke Center in Durham, N.C.
- Try to get the person to sit or lie down to prevent a fall
- Check that the person's airways are clear
- Do not give water or food — the stroke victim could choke
- Write down when symptoms first appear to help the medical staff assess treatment