FAST: How remembering four letters can save a life in case of stroke

May is Stroke Awareness Month – and the best kind of awareness is how to spot if someone you know has had a stroke.

SUMMARY: Stroke is a dangerous event requiring immediate medical attention. Learn the F-A-S-T assessment tool to help you determine if someone you know has had a stroke.

Quick medical response can make a huge difference in recovery from stroke. The simple acronym “FAST” can help you determine what to do if you think someone you know is having a stroke:

F = Face drooping


Is one side of the face numb or drooping? One way to check: Ask the person to smile. Is the smile lopsided or uneven?


A = Arm weakness


Is one arm numb or weak? Ask the person to lift both arms – check to see if one arm starts to drift downward.


S = Speech difficulty


Is the person’s speech slurred? Are they hard to understand or is the person unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a very simple sentence, like “The grass is green.” Can they repeat the phrase?


T = Time to call 9-1-1!


If someone shows even one of these symptoms – even if the symptoms go away – call 911 immediately. Explain that you think the person is having a stroke. It is important to help get the person to the hospital right away. If possible, note the time the symptoms first appeared because the emergency responders will need this information.


Other possible signs of stroke

These symptoms can also appear, either with the F-A-S-T signs, or by themselves. Call 9-1-1 immediately if these symptoms occur:

  • Sudden problem seeing (in one or both eyes)
  • Sudden severe headache with no cause
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty understanding speech, or difficulty speaking
  • Sudden difficulty with walking, coordination, or balance, or sudden dizziness
  • Sudden weakness or numbness of arm, leg, or face – especially on only one side of the body

FROM THE HHN EDITORS:What if you are not sure if the person has had a stroke? Call 9-1-1 anyway! The American Stroke Association recommends that you should call 9-1-1 if you aren’t sure if the person has had a stroke. Their advice: “Don’t wait!” We agree: it is much better to be safe than sorry where stroke is concerned.

Source: To learn more, see the American Stroke Association website

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