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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 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.”


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Now, I want you to know I checked this out before I posted it. Here’s what I found at

Though it’s of unknown origin, the above text captures the essence of a scientific study discussed at the 28th International Stroke Conference in February 2003. The study was summarized in a press release as follows:

A bystander may be able to spot someone having a stroke by giving the person a simple, quick test to see if they can smile, raise both arms and keep them up, and speak a simple sentence coherently,” states an abstract of the report. “The test, which takes less than one minute, has helped healthcare professionals accurately identify stroke patients. If bystanders can relay results of this test to an emergency dispatcher, it could speed treatment to stroke patients. Time is crucial in treating stroke.

While the accuracy of the study hasn’t been seriously disputed, the American Stroke Association issued a disclaimer stating that it does not endorse “The Simple Test for Stroke” (or “The Smile Test,” as it is also known). The ASA recommends that the public familiarize itself instead with the following stroke warning signs and call 9-1-1 immediately if these symptoms appear:

  • 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

For more information on stroke symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, visit the Website of the The American Stroke Association.