Peninsula Home Care Says “Stick Out Your Tongue!” to Save a Life

Published on - May 6, 2014

Your mother may have taught that it is rude to stick out your tongue, and in most cases, she was right – unless you find yourself in a situation where it might help to save a person’s life.  That is because the tongue has been identified as a key sign for identifying if an individual is having a stroke.  

“It may sound a little odd,” said Therese Ganster, Peninsula Home Care Community Liaison, “but if the tongue is crooked – meaning it hangs down one side or the other when the person is asked to stick out their tongue, it is a very quick indication of a possible stroke.” 

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death, killing about 137,000 people each year. Stroke is also a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability. Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and food. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.  

FAST Signs

The American Stroke Association (ASA) teaches people to look for FAST identifiers: 

  • F (face) – Does the face look even? Is the tongue hanging straight?
  • A (arm) – Is one arm hanging down?
  • S (speech) – Does the person have slurred speech?
  • T (time) – If the answer to the questions above is yes – it is time to call 911 

“The best way to protect oneself from stroke is to understand the risk factors and how to manage them,” said Ganster. “Risks can easily be assessed during a regular physical with your doctor. The good news is that strokes can be treated and even prevented.”

Knowing the Risks

There are two types of risk factors for stroke; controllable and uncontrollable.  Controllable risk factors fall into two categories: lifestyle and medical.  Lifestyle risk factors can often be changed, while medical risk factors can usually be treated.  

More than half of all strokes are caused by uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure, making it the most important risk factor to control.  Other controlled risk factors for stroke include cigarette smoking, atrial fibrillation and physical inactivity.  

Controllable Risk Factors


Uncontrollable Risk Factors


High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure causes the heart to pump harder to move blood which can weaken blood vessels and damage major organs such as the brain. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke.


Age – after the age of 55, stroke risk doubles for every decade a person is alive

Atrial Fibrillation – (AF) is caused when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and unpredictably, producing an irregular heartbeat. AF raises stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the heart.

Gender – women suffer more strokes each year than men but stroke incidence is higher in men than women at younger ages

High Cholesterol – High levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream can clog arteries and cause a stroke or heart attack

Race – African Americans have twice the risk of stroke when compared to Caucasians.  Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders also have a higher risk

Diabetes – People with diabetes are up to 4 times more likely to have a stroke than someone who does not have the disease

Family History – If a family member has had a stroke, everyone in the family has a higher risk of stroke

Atherosclerosis – can clog arteries and block the flow of blood to the brain or other parts of the body, making a person more at risk for a stroke

Previous Stroke – About 5 to 14 percent of the people who have a stroke this year will have a second one

Tobacco & Alcohol Use – Smoking also doubles the risk of stroke / Drinking large amounts of alcohol may increase risk for stroke

Fibromuscular Dysplasia – FMD happens when some of the arteries that carry blood throughout the body do not develop as they should. As a result, blood flow through the arteries decreases.


Obesity – Obesity and excess weight put a strain on the entire circulatory system and makes people more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO or Hole in the Heart) – Stroke can be caused by a “hole” in the heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). About 1 in 5 Americans has a PFO.

For more information on stroke awareness and to download a free Stroke Risk Scorecard, or call 410- 543-7550. 

About Peninsula Home Care

Providing skilled nursing, physical, occupational and speech therapy for more than 30 years, Peninsula Home Care ensures that all patients are involved in their plan of care and strives to give them every opportunity to maintain their independence in the home. The agency has served more than 50,000 patients in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties in Maryland and Sussex and Kent counties in Delaware. In 2017, PHC and PHCN were designated as Preferred Home Care Provider by Peninsula Regional Medical Center and Nanticoke Health Services.


Serving Sussex County & Lower Kent Counties in Delaware and Wicomico, Worcester & Somerset Counties in Maryland

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