Study: Most Americans don’t know common stroke signs

MANCHESTER – If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know the signs of stroke.

Only 8 percent of those surveyed recently in the American Stroke Association/Ad Council Stroke Awareness Continuous Tracking Study could identify each letter in FAST, an acronym of the most common stroke warning signs.

“I was in a meeting when I started to feel weird sensations on my face, heaviness on my right side, slurring of speech,” said Cinda Guagliumi, of Merrimack. “My co-workers noticed and called 911 immediately. I was having a stroke.”

Guagliumi, a mother of two young boys, is now a passionate advocate for the New Hampshire chapter of the American Heart Association.

“Learning how to spot a stroke is just as important as teaching your family CPR or what to do in the event of a fire,” she said. “With stroke – just like a cardiac arrest or a fire – seconds count.”

FAST is:

F – Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or feel numb? Ask the person to smile.

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

S – Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, or is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence such as “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T – Time to call 911: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get him or her to the hospital immediately.

Additional stroke signs include sudden severe headache with no known cause; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden confusion or trouble understanding.

Teaching people how to recognize a stroke and respond quickly is a primary goal of the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative, sponsored nationally by Medtronic.

The free Spot a Stroke FAST app for iOS and Android is available in English and Spanish and includes a stroke warning sign quiz, high blood pressure chart and searchable map of hospitals recognized by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability and the nation’s No. 5 leading cause of death. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. For more information or to download the app, visit