F.A.S.T is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of a stroke:
F – Face drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
A – Arm weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty. Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T – Time to call 911. If the person (or you notice it in yourself) shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain – such as memory and muscle control are lost.
According to the National Stroke Association, how a person is affected by stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. For example, someone who has a small stroke may only have minor problems, such as temporary weakness in an arm or leg. People who suffer larger strokes may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or lose their ability to speak.
Some people never fully recover from strokes, but more than two-thirds will have some type of disability.
The key is early detection and getting to the hospital. That’s why the National Stroke Association and American Heart Association have teamed up to prevent stroke by educating people on the signs and symptoms.
Beyond F.A.S.T. – the American Heart Association points to the following additional symptoms you should know that are associated with stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
There are many myths surrounding strokes, the biggest being that stroke cannot be prevented. Untrue! Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable by changing to a healthier lifestyle. Additionally, treatment is available if a stroke is caught early.
The main message from both the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association is to heed their F.A.S.T quick reference, always listen to your body and have a family physician that will keep an eye on your lifestyle habits to advise you on avoiding things like smoking and obesity as well as knowing your family history, high blood pressure or cholesterol – all potential contributors to stroke.