The FAST Approach: Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
06/27/24  9:47 AM PST

Stroke is a leading cause of disability and death worldwide, but with prompt recognition and treatment, many of its secondary complications can be minimized. One of the most effective ways to recognize a stroke is by using the FAST method, an acronym that stands for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time. Understanding and applying the FAST method can help save lives and improve outcomes for stroke patients.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Strokes can be ischemic, caused by a blockage in an artery, or hemorrhagic, caused by a blood vessel bursting. Both types require immediate medical attention. (site: Mayo Clinic)

The FAST Approach:

F – Face Drooping
Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop or feel numb? An uneven smile or a drooping face is a common sign of a stroke.

A – Arm Weakness
Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward, or is one arm unable to be lifted? Sudden weakness or numbness in one arm is another indicator of a stroke.

S – Speech Difficulty
Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, such as “The cat is black.” Is their speech slurred or hard to understand? Difficulty speaking or understanding speech can signal a stroke.

T – Time to Call 911
If you observe any of these signs, even if they go away, call 911 immediately. Note the time when the symptoms first appeared. Prompt medical treatment is crucial, and knowing the onset time can help healthcare providers deliver the most effective care.

While the FAST approach covers the most common stroke symptoms, there are additional signs to be aware of:

  • Confusion or trouble understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Time is critical when it comes to treating a stroke. The longer the brain is deprived of blood flow, the greater the potential for permanent damage. Rapid treatment can significantly improve the chances of recovery and reduce the risk of long-term complications.

While some risk factors for stroke, such as age and family history, cannot be controlled, there are many lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk:

  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Exercise Regularly: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, or about 20 minutes daily.
  • Control Blood Pressure: Keep your blood pressure under control through diet, exercise, and medication if necessary.
  • Manage Diabetes: Keep blood sugar levels in check.
  • Quit Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of stroke. Seek help to quit if needed.
  • Limit Alcohol: Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

Recognizing the signs of a stroke and acting quickly can save lives and significantly improve recovery outcomes. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these signs and share this knowledge with others. Quick action can make all the difference in a stroke emergency. Remember, when it comes to stroke, every second counts.

In Health,

Aaron Baker

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