Recognizing the most common warning signs of a stroke

Three telltale symptoms occur in 75% of all strokes, often in combination. Don’t ignore them — even if they’re short-lived.

Published: June, 2017

Image: © American Heart/Thinkstock

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Also known as “brain attacks,” strokes result from an injury to a blood vessel that limits blood flow to part of the brain. Rapid diagnosis and treatment can prevent potentially devastating disability or death — which is why everyone should know the common warning signs of a stroke.

In 2013, the American Stroke Association unveiled a stroke awareness campaign based on the mnemonic FAST. Around that the time, a national survey suggested that 28% of Americans didn’t know any stroke symptoms, and nearly half weren’t sure what to do if they experienced or witnessed the symptoms of a stroke. But four years later, things seem to be improving.

“The FAST campaign has had a positive impact by helping the public become more aware of stroke symptoms,” says stroke specialist Dr. Christopher Anderson, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. As far as memory aids go, FAST makes sense because the first three letters (which stand for Face, Arm, and Speech) cover the most stereotypical symptoms and together account for about 75% of the symptoms stroke patients experience. They’re caused by strokes that occur in the large hemispheres in the front part of the brain, explains Dr. Anderson. Often, but not always, people have more than one symptom.

FAST enough?

Sometimes, people who are having a stroke experience leg weakness (which can cause balance or walking problems) or have trouble seeing (such as blurred or double vision). These less-common symptoms usually occur from strokes that occur in a smaller area in the back part of the brain. Some neurologists argue that adding two additional letters before FAST — B for balance and E for eyes — to make the mnemonic “BE-FAST” would help people recognize even more strokes.

But Dr. Anderson isn’t sure that’s a good idea, for a couple of reasons. First, in a moment of panic, it’s not easy to quickly remember what four letters stand for, let alone two extra ones. Second, balance is a tricky sign because a lot of older people have balance problems now and then. Many other things, such as low blood pressure or inner ear problems, can cause dizziness or balance issues. When caused by a stroke, balance problems are often accompanied by other symptoms. “If you’re having a stroke, your balance may be off, but one leg also feels heavy, or you can’t see quite right,” Dr. Anderson says. When those symptoms appear together, that’s concerning and should be evaluated right away, he adds.

The eye symptoms can be elusive; they include blurred vision, seeing double, and trouble focusing. Sometimes a stroke cuts off part of the visual field. As a result, people can’t judge the space around them, and they’ll do things like bang their shoulder while walking through a doorway.

Short-lived symptoms: Still alarming

It’s very important not to brush off short-lived stroke symptoms. They may represent a transient ischemic attack, or TIA — a temporary decrease in blood flow to the brain, sometimes called a ministroke.

“For instance, a woman might notice that while her husband was reading before bed, his arm got a little clumsy and he couldn’t see right. But then it went away.” Just because a symptom goes away doesn’t mean it’s not still scary, warns Dr. Anderson. A TIA is an important sign that something is wrong and could lead to a more serious stroke if not addressed.

Another classic scenario is a person who says, “That’s funny, I can’t feel one side of my mouth,” and then their speech becomes garbled. Or a person might say, “I was cooking and I dropped the knife. I picked it right up, but then I dropped it again.” In all of these instances, you should call 911 right away.

If you’re calling for someone else, be sure to note the time you first noticed the symptoms, or when the person was “last seen well” without symptoms. The information can be vital for doctors, because the most common stroke treatment should be given within a certain time frame.

Swelling in legs

detox juice.JPGImmediate correction: Rest, stop smoking, drink a smoothie of parsley, carrots, apples, ginger and coconut water

Corrective healthy lifestyle for long term: avoid toxins/carcinogens/tobacco use, alcohol,consume whole foods

Edema, often referred to as water retention, bloating or swelling, is the excessive accumulation of fluids between the cells caused by defects or dysfunction in the circulatory or the lymphatic systems.

Symptoms of Edema

  • Swelling
  • Stretched and/or shiny skin
  • Skin which when poked or pressed will remain “dented”
  • Pain in area of swelling, most especially in the fingers and feet

The possible causes of edema are quite various and range from things as simple as not getting enough water to more serious conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

Causes of edema may include

  • Excess of sodium in diet
  • Use of medications
  • Estrogen imbalance (dominance)
  • Dehydration
  • Magnesium Deficiency
  • Fatty Acid Deficiency
  • Protein Deficiency
  • B-vitamin Deficiency
  • Poor Circulation
  • Weaken veins and capillaries
  • Blocked lymph
  • Liver congestion
  • Bronchial disorders such as chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema
  • PMS

Other more serious conditions which may contribute to or cause edema include:

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Obesity
  • Hypo- or Hypertension
  • Heart Disease
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Cancer

Sodium and Potassium

Our bodies need a certain amount of sodium and potassium (1:5 ratio) salts in our diet to keep the body running smoothly.  Unfortunately the way most people eat today, potassium is quite lacking and the sodium is consumed in great abundance beyond what is needed.  To be sure a person gets the right balance in their diet, it is a good idea to avoid processed foods which contain sodium [also, sodium nitrate, sodium chloride, sodium benzoate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG)] and replace them with recipes made with natural, unprocessed, all–natural and whole foods.  Get rid of the refined and processed table salt and replace it with a high quality, high flavor, and unrefined sea salt.  My favorite just happens to be Celtic Grey sea salt. If you’d like more information about sodium and sea salt, take a look at this article from Dr. Mercola.


So many people are taking medications these days for a myriad of conditions.  Most of these medications will lend themselves to swelling and inflammation by one of two methods.  They will either cause vasodilation of the blood vessels or retention of sodium.  Any type of medication could invariably cause or lead to edema, but the most common contributing medications will include:

  • Statins
  • Anti-coagulants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) such as Ibuprofen, Naproxyn, or Tylenol
  • Anti-psychotics and anti-depressants
  • Narcotic pain killers
  • Immuno-suppressants
  • Beta blockers
  • Diabetes medications
  • Chemo-therapy

If you take any type of medication for a chronic condition, it would be wise to find ways to help your body cope with or reverse the condition when possible so that medications can be reduced or eliminated. For information on regulating blood sugars and help with diabetes, check out this article. If you take statins or the anti-coagulants that are often prescribed together, I would recommend you take a look at the following articles with regards to these medications and the conditions they are prescribed for. If you are taking antipsychotics, I would encourage you to find out how nutrition might help to reverse the conditions which require such medications.  These articles may help.

Estrogen & the Liver

If you read the articles I write, you would see that I talk about Estrogen Dominance a great deal.  I don’t believe it is the cause of everything awry in the body; however, the hormones have such a great effect on all systems of the body, that it’s one of the core things I encourage people to look at if they are suffering from chronic illness.  In most cases the body is capable of producing all of the estrogen it will ever need to function properly, but our current culture adds to this in great abundance by using products and eating foods which bombard the body, especially the liver, with estrogen-like compounds (xeno-estrogens) which create confusion in the hormone receptors and therefore create a hormone imbalance. The liver is the organ responsible for filtering and moving these excesses out of the body, but with too much, over time, the liver will tire and become congested and unable to perform to its designed capacity.  Liver congestion will inevitably lead to all sorts of illness and symptoms including edema.  If you have other symptoms such as depression, fatigue, hair loss or excess, excessive sweating,  PMS, PCOS, prostate enlargement, fertility or libido problems, thyroid or adrenal disorders, or cancer, then it’s highly suspect that your body is suffering from some hormone related issues. For more information on what to look for and what to do about it, take a look at this article.


Sometimes, water retention is caused by something as simple as the lack of water coming in.  If you tend to drink an abundance of sodas, coffees or other artificial drinks, you may not be getting enough water.  These other drinks, especially soda contain high amounts of sodium which we talked about earlier and for every glass of another beverage that you drink, that is usually one less glass of water you’re NOT drinking that the body needs.   With the lack of water coming in, the body will attempt to retain the small bits that it takes in to keep the cells working properly often causing edema and swelling.


A deficiency in B-vitamins, especially B6 (pyridoxine) can contribute to anemia, depression, dermatitis, hypertension, and edema.  A good B6 or B-multi supplement might prove helpful, but eating foods high in B-vitamins would serve you better in the long run.

Magnesium is a mineral that seems to be missing in many people’s diets these days.  The lack of good healthy, whole foods in the diet and a depletion of minerals in the soils due to the shifts in agriculture have caused an onslaught of deficiencies everywhere. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency might include, but are not limited to:  anxiety, depression, sensitivity to noise, insomnia, fatigue, constipation, and hormone imbalance. Many of these symptoms might beg for maintenance medications or lead to edema all by themselves.   Arthritis and bone pain can also be indicators of a magnesium deficiency as it’s important that the body gets plenty of magnesium and calcium together to prevent and reverse such conditions.

Fatty Acids are too commonly imbalanced, or just completely missing from the typical American diet.  An influx of broken and false fatty acids (trans-fats) have taken their place.  Without a good ratio of good fats in the diet, chronic illness will abound in the body.  Because these fats are needed to digest many of the minerals we need such as magnesium, calcium and vitamin, it becomes a root cause of many of the chronic illness we see (arthritis, inflammation, auto-immunity, cancer, hormone imbalance, circulatory, respiratory and nervous disorders, psychiatric disorders, etc.). I would encourage you to explore, research and learn everything you can about fats and how they correspond to good and bad nutrition.  The following articles should get you started on that journey.

Protein Deficiency can also lend itself to swelling and edema, especially for pregnant women.  Eating a variety of meats and protein rich whole foods (legumes, eggs, bran, etc.) will help the body to regulate and manage its systems, reduce inflammation and fluid retention.


Circulation can be poor for a variety of reasons–sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, heart conditions and weakened blood vessels.  If you want to increase the circulation it’s important to eat healthy, whole foods, increase the activity level, and keep those veins healthy.  If you suffer with varicose veins or other vein related disorders (cold hands and feet, hemorrhoids, etc.), taking some herbs to help strengthen the circulatory system might also prove beneficial.

Lymphatic System

Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no pump in which to keep things moving “up and out.”  It is a vital component of the immune system.  The lymph is comprised of many organs, nodes and tissues; flows throughout the entire body and works to back up the circulatory system to remove toxic wastes from the circulatory system and the body. Blocked lymph may occur as a result of inactivity, obesity, scar tissue from surgery or trauma, chronic infections, hormone imbalance, and/or poor diet.  Ways to help improve lymph health include everything already mentioned above and especially an increase in upper body exercise to help the lymph to pump and clean itself out.  Chlorophyll supplementation and/or green foods which are very rich in chlorophyll may help to clean the lymphatic & the circulatory systems and reduce swelling.

Respiratory Dysfunction

Stop smoking. Bronchial disorders such as respiratory allergies, asthma, chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema can interfere with the normal exchange between the lungs and the heart and may increase edema in organs and the extremities.  Improving immune health can lessen the impact of stress on the body or in some cases even reverse these bronchial conditions (asthma, allergies, etc.) that might create inflammation problems. The following articles may help with these things. ThyroidThyroid dysfunction can contribute to many other secondary conditions including diabetes, hormone imbalance and immune dysfunction.  Addressing any thyroid problems and correcting them will benefit the whole body and reduce inflammation and swelling throughout the body. These two articles address some of the things you can do to help regulate the thyroid naturally whether it be under or overactive.


Anytime the body has an influx of toxins (smoking,drugs,meds,alcohol,infection,inflammatory substance) coursing through its systems, inflammation will increase.

Obviously, avoiding these things in the first place would be the best course of action, but in a case where the horse is already out of the barn, I resort to a good herbal remedy (below) and a dose of activated charcoal to help the body pull those nasty toxins out of the tissues with less exertion to the systems.

Taking steps to remove toxins from the daily diet and routine would be a promising long term solution to preventing edema and any of its related conditions.  In serious situations, cleansing might be something you would consider to give yourself a kick-start back to good health.

Natural Cures

There are many herbs and foods which might lend themselves of fluid release in the body.  Some of these include

Connie’s comments: This post is for my 60 yr old friend who smokes, has swelling of legs, his doctor said there is nothing wrong with his circulation, he smokes few cigarattes a day, works as mechanic but eats lots of fish.

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78 yrs old female, arthritis with severe pain

Yesterday morning at around 6am my 78 yrs old mother could not walk for severe leg pain.  She never take meds except for her anti-hypertensive med in the morning.  So she took one of her doctor’s prescribed anti-arthritis med together with Hydrocodone and immediately she throws up, feeling dizzy and feeling like the world around her is continuously circling in motion she fell to the chair and could not move.

When I arrived at 10am, she still keeps on throwing up and with no energy. As I move her to another bed, I can feel her firm grip.  She said that it feels like her throat is getting narrower and she has no appetite and cannot take in any food. Three hrs later, she tried to get a bite of the boiled egg, rice and apple juice I gave her.  Her blood pressure is fine. I  told her that her heart is ok but all the tissues and joints in her body are inflammed.

In the afternoon she drank the boiled lemon grass, with dark cherry concentrate and brown sugar that I prepared for her.  I got her a homeopathic arthritis cream and Badger menthol rub to rub on her feet and legs.  Before going to bed she took the Zyflamend softgel (anti-inflammatory containing 10 herbs such as ginger and turmeric) that I bought that day. In the morning I gave her the Ultra Oil cap which she took with a banana. She had oatmeal and one egg that morning.

I left her at her place after walking with her in her garden.  She now feels no pain and is moving about.

I told her to listen to her body telling her to rest more and not move a lot helping other caregivers in the carehome where she stays.

She said that it feels like her body is drying up and that is so weak that she will soon leave for Australia to retire with my sister.

Connie Dello Buono ;

Call for part time or full time business or job 408-854-1883 in financial planning, college planning, retirement planning and helping others with their idle money to work for them at 13%, tax free, safe and secured with free health benefits