Early warning signs of stroke

Posted on 9 September 2019

When it comes to a brain attack (stroke), every minute counts. Your immediate action when observing early warning signs of stroke can help to prevent brain damage and long-term disability.

‘If you suspect someone is having a stroke, don’t think they should rest quietly in order to recover,’ says Dr Melanie Stander, Mediclinic’s Emergency Medicine Manager. ‘The best thing you can do is immediately call ER24 on 084 124 for help.’

Here are signs you should look out for.

FAST is an acronym to help you remember the early signs of a stroke.

Face drooping. One side of the face droops or is numb. When asked to smile, the person’s smile looks uneven.

Arm weakness. One arm could feel weak or numb. When asked to raise both arms with both eyes closed, one of the person’s arms will drift downward.

Speech difficulty. The person could have trouble speaking. Speech will sound slurred, or the words will be hard to understand. When asked to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue,” the person will have trouble repeating it correctly.

Time to call ER24 on 084 124 or Emergency Centre on 0800 051 051. If the person shows any of the above symptoms. Even if the symptoms pass, call an ambulance and get the person to a hospital. Take note of the time when the symptoms first appeared.


Other signs of stroke that you – or a loved one – might be suffering a stroke include:

Confusion: Someone who is suffering a stroke or TIA (minor stroke) might not be able to think clearly or make decisions – and might look puzzled.

Difficulty understanding: They might not be able to comprehend what you’re saying and might appear unsteady on their feet. If you suddenly feel confused and have trouble understanding simple things (such as how to open a door), it could be a sign that you’re suffering stroke.

Dizziness: If you – or a loved one – suddenly experience trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, it might signal that something wrong is happening in your brain.

Numbness: If you’re experiencing sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arm or leg, located on one side of the body, you should be concerned. A stroke normally affects only one half of your body because your brain controls each side of the body from a different hemisphere

Trouble with vision: If you or a loved one suddenly experience problems with their eyesight – or cloudy vision – in one or both eyes, this might be a sign of stroke.

Sudden and severe headache: A stroke can cause a sudden, intense headache that is unrelated to your usual headache triggers.


Remember, you should never delay calling ER24 on 082 124 if you experience even one of the symptoms above. You could be having a stroke even if you’re not experiencing all of the symptoms. ‘Mediclinic hospitals are being primed to offer an acute integrated stroke service led by multidisciplinary healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients who have suffered a stroke,’ says Dr Stander.


During September, National Heart and Stroke Awareness Month, visit a participating Mediclinic for free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. Find your nearest screening centre here.


Read more about heart and stroke health here…

The heart attack gender gap (infographic)
What happens in your body during a stroke (infographic)
Your stroke treatment journey (infographic)

Early warning signs of stroke
The different kinds of stroke: how they happen and how they harm your health
FAQs: Stroke – common questions, answered

Published in Heart & stroke

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

Post a comment

Leave a reply