Recognizing a Stroke

Recognizing a Stroke

I got an email chain letter that encouraged me to send it to 10 other people. Now I hate chain letters, but for once this one has actually useful information, at least from an awareness-building perspective: how to recognize a stroke:

Is It a Stroke?

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. Now doctors say any bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

  • Ask the individual to smile.
  • Ask him or her to raise both arms.
  • Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

After discovering that a group of nonmedical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions. They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association’s annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.

Here’s the “official way” of recognizing a stroke from the American Stroke Association:

Call 911 immediately if you — or a loved one — experience these symptoms:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause


As an aside, I always check chain letter information through places like to make sure it’s not crap. If it is, I let the sender know. It’s kind of harsh, but the spread of misinformation is in the long run worse. I did it a little late this time, but thankfully the general idea that you CAN recognize a stroke is a valid one.

Chain letters circulate on two principles: get something for yourself, or help someone else. The “help someone else” letters are often well-intentioned, but wrong, and they often end up causing logistical nightmares for the people they are supposed to help.

1 Comment

  1. Joan 16 years ago

    Posting this was a mitzvah.
    I have sent this on to my cousin. Evidently my Aunt had a small stroke last weekend. She’s home now, but one of the things my cousin said was that he knew something was wrong when she couldn’t finish a sentence. Spooky.