Know the Symptoms of a Stroke

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. and globally. It’s estimated that 800,000 people suffer from a stroke each year.1


Fortunately, death rates are declining, due to increased cardiovascular health management, awareness of symptoms, and earlier medical intervention. From 1977 to 2013, death rates due to stroke have declined 77%.2


There are different types of stroke- ischemic, TIA (transient ischemic attack), and hemorrhagic.


An ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. While this is a very serious event, it’s the “milder” stroke as compared to hemorrhagic, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures.

Types of Strokes


With either type, your client needs medical attention immediately, so if you suspect a stroke, don’t hesitate to call 911!


A TIA is sometimes referred to as a “mini stroke”. With a TIA, someone may have a brief episode of ischemia, which resolves on its own. The person may or may not have symptoms of a stroke.


If someone has stroke-like symptoms, even if they resolve quickly, they MUST go to the hospital immediately! Having a TIA puts one at risk for having a stroke, or they may have had a more significant stroke and symptoms just appear mild, so they need medical attention.


It’s important to commit the acronym BE FAST to memory to be able to identify symptoms of a stroke within your clients.


Please note: your clients don’t need to experience all of these symptoms to have a stroke! If you suspect a stroke or TIA, call 9-1-1 immediately!


Balance- unsteadiness or difficulty with balance
If they’re already sitting, don’t ask them to stand. If you notice they’re having difficulty with balance, have them sit down if possible.


Eyes- difficulty seeing or vision changes
Ask if they are having difficulty seeing or are experiencing double vision.


Face- facial drooping, numbness
Ask them to smile and notice if they’re unable to bring one side of their mouth upwards.


Arm- weakness in one arm
Ask them to lift both arms overhead, noticing if one lags significantly, or they can’t perform on one side.


Speech- difficulty with speech, slurred speech
Ask them to tell you their birthdate or the name of the president to identify difficulty with speech.


Time- time to call 9-1-1.
Remember “time is brain” meaning the quicker you can get medical attention the less brain damage.

**Knowing this information can truly be lifesaving! Commit this to memory and never be afraid to call 9-1-1 if you are concerned about a possible stroke or TIA.**



By Dr. Katie Landier, PT, DPT
Board Certified Specialist in Geriatric Physical Therapy