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Stroke - 5 Warning Signs

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

Is it true that if you think someone is having a stroke that you should ask them to do these three things and why?

1. Smile

2. Raise both arms

3. Speak a sentence


Fact or Fiction?

Dear Fact or Fiction,

Yes, one way to determine if someone is having a stroke is to ask him or her to perform these three simple things (smile, raise both arms, and speak a simple sentence). Problems performing any of these tasks could indicate that the person is having a stroke and must get help immediately.

In order to survive a stroke and minimize long-term disability, the person must be treated without delay; otherwise, severe disability or death could occur. Even if the symptoms only last a few minutes, seek medical attention at once by calling 911, or going to your local emergency department.

For ischemic strokes (blocked blood flow to the brain), it's best to be treated within 3 hours of the onset of symptoms in order for a clot-busting drug (tPA tissue Plasminogen Activator) to be effective.

For a hemorrhagic stroke, doctors need to stop the rupture and bleeding in or around the brain. These three tasks correspond to the early warning signs of stroke as outlined by the American Stroke Association at


1. Numbness or Weakness: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

2. Confusion: sudden trouble speaking or understanding.

3. Eyesight: sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

4. Dizziness: sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination.

5. Headache: sudden severe headache with no known cause.

For more information on strokes, see