Most of us occasionally have headaches or clumsy spells, but stroke symptoms will seem unusual and come on suddenly. Call 911 if you or someone you’re with notices these unexplained, sudden warning signs.

Common symptoms

  • A feeling of numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg (one side might be affected more than the other)
  • Vision problems in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or loss of balance; difficulty walking
  • Confusion
  • Problems speaking or understanding what other people are saying
  • Severe headaches without warning or explanation

Additional symptoms in women

While women* may have the same symptoms as men*, they may also have these additional symptoms, which also happen suddenly and unexpectedly:

  • Pains in the face or legs
  • Hiccups
  • Nausea
  • Feeling weak all over
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat


The American Stroke Association developed F.A.S.T., an easy-to-remember acronym that can help you spot a stroke in yourself or another person.

F – Face drooping – Is one side of the person’s face drooping or numb? When the person smiles, is the smile uneven?
A – Arm weakness – Is the person experiencing weakness or numbness in one arm? Have the person raise both arms. Does one of the arms drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty – Is the person’s speech suddenly slurred or hard to understand? Is the person unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence so that you can listen for slurred speech.
T – Time to call 911 – If any of these symptoms are present, dial 911 immediately. Check the time so you can report when the symptoms began.

If you notice any of the above-listed symptoms in yourself or another person, dial 911 immediately and ask that you or the person be taken to the nearest stroke treatment center. Treating a stroke is a race against time to save brain tissue and potentially the stroke victim’s life. It’s better to seek treatment and find out that it’s not a stroke than to “wait and see” and risk brain damage or death.

*The term “women” in the context of “women’s cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) who have a female biological reproductive system, which includes a vagina, uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, accessory glands, and external genital organs.

*The term “men” in the context of “cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB) who have a male biological reproductive system, which includes a penis, scrotum, testes, epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, and seminal vesicles.