How Do I Know If I Am Having a Stroke & What To Do?

Strokes can happen to anyone and have a lasting impact on your body. However, if you or those around you act quickly, it can greatly affect the outcome of the situation.

In order to prepare yourself and your loved ones for a stroke, it is important to educate yourself about the symptoms of a stroke and have emergency contact information readily available, including personal details and any allergies. By doing this, you can help health professionals make the best decisions and potentially improve the outcome of a stroke.

What to do if Someone is Having a Stroke — B.E.F.A.S.T.

Acting quickly is crucial for stroke patients to aid in their recovery and minimize potential long-term effects. The effectiveness of stroke treatments relies on receiving a confirmed diagnosis within 3 hours of symptom onset, emphasizing the importance of time.

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke you can conduct a rapid evaluation using the B.E.F.A.S.T. test, which can also be self-administered if alone.

In addition to aiding in diagnosis and determining if medical assistance is needed, this assessment will provide valuable information to healthcare professionals upon arrival. It is recommended to keep track of when symptoms first appear for accurate reporting to medical personnel.

Here’s a quick summary of what the acronym, B.E.F.A.S.T. represents:

  • B—Balance: Does the person have balance problems, such as staggering instead of walking, losing balance, or even leaning to the side?
  • E—Eyesight: Is there a problem with the individual’s ability to see? This can range from having the double vision to battling with side vision.
  • F—Face: The person should smile or stick out their tongue, so you can discern an uneven smile or the tongue deviating to one side. You can check if the face droops on one side and drool coming from the mouth unchecked is also a sign to look for.
  • A—Arms: The patient must lift both arms so you can see if one of them tends to drift downward. Ask whether there’s numbness in the arm, or give the person a cup to raise to their mouth to test coordination and determine if there’s weakness in the limbs.
  • S—Speech: Converse with the person and see if they find it difficult to understand or reply. Slurred speech or difficulty swallowing is concerning or if they report their tongue feeling thick.
  • T—Time: If any of the signs above are present, it’s Time to contact emergency services.

Here is a helpful video on the topic by Stanford Health Care.

Am I Having a Stroke?

If you suspect you may be having a stroke, it is important to act quickly and seek medical attention immediately.

Call your local emergency services or go to the nearest hospital right away.

Common symptoms of a stroke include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, particularly on one side of the body, sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden severe headache with no known cause, and trouble walking or maintaining balance.

Remember, time is of the essence when it comes to treating a stroke, so seek help right away if you experience any of these symptoms.

What Does a Stroke Feel Like?

What happens during a stroke is that you’re actually having a ‘brain attack’ since the normal blood supply to your brain gets interrupted. A stroke can happen and impact your body gradually, and you won’t necessarily feel what’s happening in the brain itself.

However, the signs that a stroke could be imminent or it’s happening, are often very noticeable. These are the clues you need to give attention to. Use them to identify that there’s a possible emergency that requires you or someone else to request medical assistance.

Surprisingly, despite the seriousness of a stroke, when looking at what are the symptoms of a stroke, or the physical signs leading up to a stroke, you’ll notice that very few of them are painful. Rather, they just create discomfort and inconvenience.

In the absence of pain, many people are likely to ignore the signs and only get help after the stroke or when more serious effects set in, which could be too late to prevent disabilities or fatalities.

What are the Signs of a Stroke?

Men and women report slight differences in experiences leading up to a stroke or symptoms of having a stroke. It’s worth understanding how they differ, so you can identify possible signs of a stroke more accurately. [Source]

Signs of a Stroke in Men

If you’re wondering what does a stroke feel like, the following are very common, noticeable signs of a stroke:

  • Feeling numb or weak in a body part, such as your leg or arm
  • Having trouble communicating because you can’t seem to understand others
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Headaches that come on suddenly, without a clear cause
  • Not being able to speak without difficulty
  • Coordination problems that affect your ability to stand and/or walk
  • Sight problems in your eyes, or even just one

Signs of a Stroke in Women

For women, the experience of having a stroke is very similar to that of men. However, women sometimes report a general sense of feeling weak and fatigued, along with nausea or vomiting. Women may even feel confused and disoriented, or battle to recall information.

Unfortunately, it can be more difficult to help women know what a stroke feels like, because of how subtle the signs are. This leads to many women categorizing the signs as less serious, so they don’t seek medical assistance. [Source]

Stroke Risk Factors

Is it possible to prevent such a serious condition as having a stroke? Health experts believe as much as 80% of strokes can be prevented by factors like lifestyle changes or appropriate medical care. There are common risk factors, many of which are manageable, although not all:

  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Except for infants younger than 12 months, the older you are, the higher the risk.
  • Men are more likely to have a stroke. However, factors such as pregnancy or birth control pills can increase the risk for women.
  • Because of genetics, your risk of having a stroke is higher if a close family member has had one.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Diabetes.
  • Disease-related to the heart and blood vessels.
  • Having a viral infection.
  • Smoking.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle, including lack of exercise or being obese.
  • Using alcohol excessively.
  • Drug usage.
  • Medical history that includes a prior stroke


Is stroke a 911 emergency?

Yes, a stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. It is important to call 911 or your local emergency number as soon as possible if you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of a stroke. Quick treatment can help reduce the damage caused by a stroke and improve the chances of recovery.

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when an artery either ruptures or gets blocked. This prevents oxygen-carrying blood from reaching the brain. As a result, within minutes brain tissue can start dying. The noticeable symptoms depend on which parts of the brain are affected first. A TIA (Transient ischemic attack) or mini-stroke is a brief and temporary condition that doesn’t damage brain cells but still requires medical attention.

What causes strokes?

The reason for a stroke is either an artery that is narrowed or blocked, or an artery that has ruptured. A disruption, like a blockage caused by a blood clot, can be temporary or permanent, with a temporary disruption carrying the possibility of no lasting effects. However, the person in question should still see a medical professional, since it can be the precursor to a more serious stroke later on.

Should I drive to the hospital if I or someone else is having a stroke?

No, in most cases it’s best that a person who has had a stroke doesn’t drive to the hospital or even be taken by someone else. Ideally, you should get an ambulance to come to you, rather than driving to the hospital yourself. An ambulance will travel the distance faster, giving healthcare professionals access to the patient sooner, so treatment can begin soon as possible.

How to prevent strokes?

You can lower the risk of having a stroke by improving your health, such as eating healthier and getting more exercise. Also, limit alcohol intake and get help from a doctor to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Furthermore, seek out medical assistance if you suspect you’ve had a TIA, as it could lead to a more serious but preventable stroke.

Can you die from a stroke?

Not all strokes are fatal, but you can die from a stroke. Many people survive strokes, but they can then suffer from disabilities brought on by dying brain tissue. Life expectancy after a stroke is considerably less compared to before a stroke.

Can Covid-19 cause a stroke?

One of the risk factors for strokes is having an infection or inflammation in the body. Since Covid-19 is an infection, it can increase the risk of suffering a stroke. The disease can also cause blood clots that are associated with strokes. However, the specific correlation between Covid-19 and strokes is still being studied.

In Conclusion

Many people fear having a stroke, but it’s a condition you can do a lot about to prevent one or at least reduce the risk of having one yourself. Also, even if it should happen to you or a loved one, taking prompt action and using the B.E.F.A.S.T. model can prevent many serious consequences. Therefore, share this information with friends and family, so more people have a chance at helping themselves or others in emergency situations.

Stroke Information Resources

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