Act FAST to Spot a Stroke

Man taking blood pressure with a hand on his head

Act FAST to Spot a Stroke

Strokes occur when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the brain gets blocked or ruptures, causing brain cells to die.

Stroke ranks as the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the number one cause of disability, as people who suffer strokes often experience significant physical and emotional changes. In addition to their significant impact, strokes can be sudden. Anybody can suffer a stroke, and it can happen without warning.

There are signs to look for, however. And if you spot any of them, you need to act FAST – because every minute matters.

What Is FAST?

FAST is a tool to help spot the signs and symptoms of a stroke as they happen.

The word FAST is an acronym. If you see someone with any of these symptoms, it could be a sign that person is having a stroke.

  • Face: Facial numbness or drooping. Ask that person to smile and see if one side of the mouth is drooping.
  • Arm: Weakness or numbness in the arm. Ask him or her to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts down.
  • Speech: Speech is slurred or difficult to understand. Ask that person to say a simple sentence and see if he or she can say it correctly.
  • Time: Call 911 immediately if you see any of these symptoms, even if they go away. And call 911 instead of driving the person to the hospital yourself.

A new acronym is “BE FAST,” adding two new symptoms:

  • Balance: Is the person showing a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
  • Eyes: Do they have vision loss or double vision?

Other symptoms not included in the acronyms, but that can be signs of a stroke, include:

  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Confusion
  • A severe headache without cause

Can FAST Save Lives?

Yes it can, because in a stroke minutes matter, and according to the American Stroke Association, less than half the population knows the signs of FAST.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported starting stroke treatment 15 minutes sooner leads to less disability and prevents more deaths. This means that with faster intervention, more people are able to walk out of the hospital and take care of themselves.

When it comes to stroke, it’s important to BE FAST.