With a new report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation warning that stroke rates are increasing among young Canadians, here are the signs and symptoms of a stroke and what you should do if you or someone you know exhibits them.


According to the Public Health Agency of Canada and groups like the Canadian Red Cross, there are several major warning signs that someone is having a stroke:

Numbness – sudden weakness, numbness, tingling or paralysis in the face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body.

Confusion – sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or trouble understanding what others are saying.

Vision – abruptly losing vision, particularly in one eye, or experiencing double vision.

Headache – sudden and severe headache, with no explainable cause.

Dizziness – lost balance, lack of co-ordination or difficulty walking.

If you or someone you know are exhibiting just one of the above symptoms, that should be reason enough to call for immediate medical help.


According to numerous health agencies, acting F.A.S.T. is the key to stroke survival and recovery. If you’re still unsure if someone you know is having a stroke, the “F.A.S.T.” test can help you:

Face – Ask the individual to smile. Is one side of their face drooping?

Arms – Ask them to raise their arms. Can they? Does one drift downward?

Speech – Talk to them. Is their speech jumbled or slurred? Do they understand what you’re saying?

Time – If you see any of these warning signs, call 9-1-1 right away. Any delays can increase the chance of death and future complications.


There are several lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risk of having a stroke. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, unhealthy weight, smoking, stress and excessive alcohol and drug use can heighten the risk.

Pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes also increase your risk of having a stroke.

Some risk factors, however, are beyond your control. If a close family member (such as a parent or a sibling) had a stroke before the age of 65, you’re at a greater risk of having one too. The older you are also heightens your risk. People of Indigenous, South Asian and African heritage are also at a higher risk of having a stroke, as these groups are statistically more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes than other groups.