Recognizing a Stroke

Filed Under: Heart Health, Stroke
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Dr. Sinatra and I are often asked about the credibility of the myriad medical emails circulating onrecognizing stroke symptoms the Internet. Recently, I received an email discussing a fourth, newly recognized sign of a stroke.

The previous pneumonic was to think of the first three letters of the word stroke (S,T, R) and take action. The new advisory, and one that is CORRECT, is use the first four letters of the word stroke (S, T, R, O) to assess for a stroke.

Below is my abbreviated version of that email going around. Please pay attention to it. You could save some precious brain cells—and even a life—if you know what to do.

The Danger of an Unidentified Stroke

During a barbeque, a friend of ours stumbled and took a little fall. She assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics), assuring them that she had simply tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food. While she appeared a bit shaken up, she went about enjoying herself for the rest of the evening.

Her husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital, where she ended up passing away. As it turns out, she had suffered a stroke at the barbeque. Had people known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps she would be with us today.

A neurologist Dr. Sinatra knows says that if he can get to a stroke victim within three hours, he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke—completely. He said the trick is having the stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medical attention within three hours, which can be tough.

Identifying a Stroke

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness can spell disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage, or worse, if people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

A bystander can recognize a stroke by remembering the first four letters of the word stroke and asking four simple questions:

  • S: Ask the individual to SMILE.
  • T: Ask the person to TALK and speak a simple sentence coherently.
  • R: Ask  him or her to RAISE both arms.
  • O: Ask the person to stick OUT their tongue. (It should emerge straight.)

This new sign is critical. When asking them to stick out their tongue, you should note if the tonge is straight or “crooked,” i.e. if it falls to one side or the other rather. This can be indicative of a stroke.

If the person has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call 911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

For more information on symptoms of heart attack and stroke, visit Dr. Sinatra’s Web site.

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