Stroke test is easy: Smile, raise your arms, say a simple sentence

June 17, 2005
Santa Paula News

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify, and, unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesSometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify, and, unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms.There is a quick-and-dirty memorable list of things to do to help determine if someone has had a stroke that could speed him or her to the hospital before it’s too late.Smile. Raise both arms. Say a simple sentence. These simple commands are a three-part test being circulated during Stroke Awareness Month.To determine if someone is having a stroke, ask the person if he or she can smile, raise both arms and say a simple sentence. For anyone who has trouble with one or more, call 911 immediately, urges the North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, which presented the three-part FAST (Face-Arm-Speech Test) at the International Stroke Conference in 2003.
Getting a stroke victim to the hospital as soon as possible is key to what could be a solid recovery: the increased use of tissue plasminogen activator, TPA, makes quick medical attention to strokes more important than ever. If administered within the three-hour window from the first stroke symptoms, TPA can dramatically limit brain damage. Only two percent of stroke patients arrive at the hospital within the three-hour window.Stroke warning signs are 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.After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness (smile), arm weakness (raising same) and speech problems (garbled or hesitant), North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions. The three simple questions have been circulated so widely on the Internet that one myth-busting Web site ( decided to investigate the claim.“By distilling the assessment process down to three simple tests,” anyone can remember what to ask and how to interpret pass-fail results,” the Web site notes. “For once there’s a ‘Send this to everyone you know!’ missive afoot that really does contain highly useful and important information.” Widespread use of the simple test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage.For more information on stroke, contact the American Stroke Association, 1-888-4-STROKE (478-7653) or on the Web at

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