On January 24, Left of You posted about the importance of recognizing stroke, and I thank him. But PLEASE know that the mnemonic devices STR and FAST are not adequate measures for identifying stroke. Although at least a couple of comments on the original post also note this, I felt it crucial enough for its own post.
STR and FAST did not help me recognize my own stroke, though I had just re-posted about them on Facebook when I was beset.
(STR stands for Smile-Talk-Raise both arms and FAST stands for Face-Arms-Speech-Time.)
Pay more attention to the fine print on the STR poster and understand that you don't need to be having ALL these symptoms. Only one can indicate a stroke.
Stroke presentation is highly variable. In a simple nutshell, if you or someone in your presence has any sign of numbness or has a "drop attack" (where they fall suddenly or nearly fall), then IMHO they should be checked out at a hospital. Likewise with any severe or unusual headache or loss of vision or loss of coordination.
I had a hemorrhagic stroke in November of 2010, and the signs were obvious--severe pain and vomiting. My husband took me straight to the hospital, and though I was there for 10 days, it turned out to be a relatively benign sub-arachnoid hemorrhage, a fluke occurrence.
However, in Fall of 2011, I had two episodes of "dizziness" and tingling and staggering that each lasted about a week. After an initial drop attack, my main symptom was that I couldn't type properly.
I never had aphasia. My face never drooped. I could always raise my arms. SRT and FAST did me no good. Though I had just re-posted about them on Facebook, I did not recognize my own stroke. My husband and I went through the STR list, and I didn't match it. Even my GP first diagnosed me with vertigo, but eventually I found out that I'd had two small ischemic strokes. It took several weeks for me and the doctors to figure it out.
It was my veterinarian who finally said to me, "If you're dizzy, no big deal, but if you have any numbness, then you're in trouble." He told me later that vets only deal with the big issues, so they are good at making such distinctions very clearly. If I had been asked which it was--dizziness or loss of coordination due to numbness, I could have distinguished, but I didn't know the difference was so important.
Fortunately, my strokes have all been minor, and I have no apparent lasting effects. However, THE BIGGEST RISK FACTOR FOR HAVING A MASSIVE STROKE is having had a smaller one first. Fortunately, I am medically astute, and so I got my symptoms checked out even though they abated. Now I am on preventive medications, and my prognosis is good. But all too often people never recognize a small stroke, much less a TIA (transient ischemic attack) and so don't seek treatment until the big one comes.
In addition, women are more likely to have atypical stroke symptoms than men. And starting as young as age 45, women benefit from beginning baby aspirin every other day unless contraindicated.
And remember that ANYONE MAY HAVE A STROKE. Yes, smoking contributes to them, but one reason my GP did not recognize my stroke is that I am not a likely stroke candidate.
Anyone, any age, any seeming health status can have a stroke. Don't think you're immune just because you are healthy and young and don't smoke. Nearly a third of first strokes are never attributed to a particular contributing factor.
So, start with STR, but don't forget the rest of the word. "O" for odd sensations. "K" for "klutz." And "E" for "everyone is a candidate for stroke but not everyone has all the symptoms."