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Cheat Sheet

Stroke For Dummies

From Stroke For Dummies by John R. Marler, M.D.

Having a stroke is serious business. It's important that you recognize the signs of stroke and know how to respond — calling 911 is imperative. After you get treated for stroke, be sure to leave the hospital with all the information you need to help you recover and make a list of relevant medical information to keep nearby when you get home again.

How to Recognize the Signs of Stroke

Knowing how to recognize the signs of stroke will help you act faster in response. The onset of stroke is typically sudden. Being aware of major signs and responding to them as rapidly as they occur is critical in order to minimize damage to your brain, improve chances of recovery — and even save your life.

The FAST way to recognize stroke:

  • F — Face numbness or weakness, especially on one side

  • A — Arm numbness or weakness, especially on one side

  • S — Speech slurring or difficulty speaking or understanding

  • T — Time to call 911 if these occur suddenly or are accompanied by loss of vision, loss of balance with dizziness, or the worst headache of your life with no known cause, both sudden and severe.

How to Respond to Stroke

Stroke happens quickly and you need to act just as quickly in order to save as much brain as possible. Whether you're experiencing the stroke yourself or watching as a loved one or friend is suddenly attacked by symptoms, memorize these steps:

  • Call 911 immediately: Don't delay, don't call people for advice — call 911.

  • Note the time: Make note of the time when the first symptoms occurred (headache, blurred vision, slurred speech, or numbness of limbs).

  • Gather medical information: Provide relevant info — blood type, allergies, medical conditions, and so on — to the medical professionals.

Information to Take Home from the Hospital after a Stroke

When you're ready to leave the hospital after your stroke, you want to depart with all the information and paperwork that will make your transition as smooth as possible. Use the following list to check that you have everything you need:

  • Diagnosis, including type and location of stroke

  • Summary of all of your medical problems

  • Details of tests and results, including CT and MRI scans, ultrasounds, electrocardiograms, angiograms, spinal taps, and others

  • List of prescriptions with detailed dosage information so you won't ever miss a single dose

  • Detailed list and schedule of all recommended physical exercises for stroke survivor

  • Schedule of follow-up appointments and future tests

  • Names and contact information of all the doctors who saw you during your stay

  • Discharge summary — ask for this document before you leave

  • Contact information for a local stroke support group

  • Contact info of a nurse or social worker to call if you have problems

Medical Information to Keep Nearby after a Stroke

As stroke survivors navigate their way toward recovery, certain information about their physical condition come into play again and again. Keep the following details close at hand — write them down, copy them, post one copy on the refrigerator, put one in your wallet, and give copies to your caretakers. Physicians and specialists will monitor, assess, and determine your treatments based partly on the data in the following list:

  • Your height, weight, and body mass index (BMI)

  • Your blood type and blood pressure

  • Your levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol

  • If you're diabetic, your fasting blood glucose

  • Any allergies, especially to medications

  • Any medical conditions

  • Current prescriptions and dosages

  • Other drugs you take — over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal supplements, and so on

  • Your doctor's name and phone number

  • Your emergency contact — name, phone number, and relationship to you

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