Do you know how to spot a stroke?

While strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, they are the fourth-leading cause of death in our region. For women in our region, they are the third-leading cause of death.

Although this is a distressing statistic, there’s good news, too. Strokes are largely preventable, treatable and beatable. “One of the most important steps in beating a stroke is knowing the warning signs and taking action quickly,” said Dr. Ghassan Bejjani, MD, Chief of Neurosurgery at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “Two-million brain cells die for every minute a stroke is not treated, which is why it is so important to take action as soon as possible.”

How do you spot the warning signs of a stroke?

Remembering the acronym “B.E. F.A.S.T.” is a great way to remember the signs of a stroke. “B.E. F.A.S.T.” stands for “balance,” “eyes,” “face drooping,” “arm weakness,” “speech difficulty” and “time to call 9-1-1.” Let’s take a closer look at each of these warning signs.

Does the person have a sudden loss of balance or coordination, or sudden dizziness?

Did the person have a sudden loss of change in either or both eyes? What do they see?

Face Drooping
Does one side of the face droop, or is it numb?

Arm Weakness
Is one arm or leg weak or numb? Is there decreased sensation or total numbness in one arm or leg?

Speech Difficulty
Is the speech slurred or garbled? Are they having difficulty speaking or unable to speak? Are they able to understand what you’re saying to them?

Time to Call 9-1-1
Call 911 if the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away.

What should you do if you think someone is having a stroke?

Like the acronym “B.E. F.A.S.T.” reminds us, time means everything when it comes to beating a stroke. Here are the steps you should take if you or someone else might be experiencing a stroke:

  1. Call 9-1-1 immediately.
  2. Do not drive yourself or someone else to the hospital. While it may seem like you can get to the hospital quicker, the emergency responders can begin life-saving treatment before you reach the hospital.
  3. Note the time you first see symptoms. This will help healthcare workers determine the appropriate treatment and disposition.
  4. Do not let the person fall asleep or talk you out of calling 9-1-1. Many stroke survivors feel suddenly sleepy when a stroke first happens. It is critical to call 9-1-1 immediately, rather than waiting to see how you feel after a nap.

All Penn Highlands Healthcare emergency departments are prepared to identify and treat strokes as quickly as possible, and Penn Highlands DuBois, an affiliate of Penn Highlands Healthcare, is a designated Primary Stroke Center for the region. To learn more, please visit