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Signs of a Stroke - Act F.A.S.T.


Strokes affect more people than many think. According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every four minutes. It’s also the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. every year.

But it doesn’t need to be. In fact, the death rate from stroke has fallen over the past 10 years as hospitals and other healthcare organizations work together to increase awareness of the symptoms of stroke and the need to get treatment quickly.

A stroke is to the brain what a heart attack is to the heart. In both instances, blood flow is interrupted, causing cells and tissue begin to die within minutes. That’s why getting treatment as quickly as possible is critical for both heart and brain attacks.

Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain—called an ischemic stroke– or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain—called a hemorrhagic stroke. A Transient Ischemic Attack, also known as a TIA or “mini stroke” is caused by a temporary clot.

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke:

Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Can they repeat it correctly?

Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Beyond F.A.S.T. – Other Symptoms You Should Know

  • Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes
  • Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause

The Stroke Center at FMH is designated as a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Service Systems (MIEMSS). Fully accredited by the American Stroke Association, the FMH Stroke Center has received the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award, and Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite recognition. To learn more about the Stroke Center at FMH, as well as the stroke support services available, call 240-566-4884 or visit

“When you or someone you know is having a stroke, time is of the essence,” said FMH Stroke Center Program Coordinator Tom Shupp. “Our Stroke Team is dedicated to providing the very best stroke care to our patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”