Would You Know What to Do for Someone Having a Stroke?

By Alison Ashton

Country music star Randy Travis's recent stroke made headlines. Here's how to spot stroke symptoms.

Did you catch the headlines about Randy Travis's recent stroke while being hospitalized for congestive heart failure?

Because Travis was in the hospital at the time, he received immediate attention. Prompt treatment is crucial to minimize brain damage from a stroke, says Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, Sharecare's executive vice president of clinical strategy and an emergency room physician.

But a stroke can happen anytime and anywhere. Would you know what to do for someone who might be having a stroke?

First, you have to spot the symptoms of a stroke, which can be subtle. Sharecare cofounder Dr. Mehmet Oz shares three stroke symptoms to look for:

  • Ask the person to smile. If one side of her face droops, it may be a stroke.
  • Ask the person to raise both arms. If it's a stroke, one side will drift downward.
  • Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase, like "It's a nice day." Slowed, slurred or garbled speech is another stroke symptom.

Call 911 immediately if you see any of these stroke symptoms. And note the exact time the symptoms started. "This is crucial because brain-saving medication can only be given if you're sure that it's within a certain time frame," Dr. Gillespie adds.

And while you wait for help, make sure the person lies down or stays seated. "Don't let them eat or drink anything," says Dr. Gillespie. "And get a full list of medications together."

It's just as important to prevent a stroke as it is to spot one. Hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol are three of the top stroke risk factors, says Dr. Oz. Smoking, being sedentary and a poor diet (especially one high in salt and fat) also boost your stroke risk.

"If you smoke, quit smoking," says Dr. Oz. "Lower your blood pressure. Decrease your heart disease risk through exercise, good nutrition and diet, and stress reduction."

Here are five more tips from Dr. Oz to slash your stroke risk:

Learn how exercise helps prevent strokes.
Eat an onion a day to keep strokes away.
Add these two rich foods to your menus.
Dig into Dr. Oz's stroke-busting sandwich.
Prevent strokes with a cup of coffee.

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