Every year, nearly 800,000 Americans will have a stroke. As many as 130,000 of those people will die, accounting for one in 20 deaths annually.
When you consider that 49 percent of Americans have at least one of the three main stroke risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being a smoker), you can see just how important it is that everyone know the signs and symptoms of a stroke so that they may be able to help a friend or family member in trouble.
Act F.A.S.T. for Best Results
According to the Centers for Disease Control, patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first stroke symptoms tend to have less disability three months after the event than those that do not.
Proper identification of stroke signs is invaluable — that’s the reason that a team of stroke experts in the U.K. developed the F.A.S.T. mnemonic as part of their ambulance staff training. Since then, the mnemonic has spread because it’s so easy to remember in an emergency.
F.A.S.T. stands for:
FACE. A section of the face may droop or be difficult to move. This is usually one-sided. Ask someone you suspect of having a stroke to smile to better illuminate this sign.
ARMS. Weakness in just one arm, especially if it’s on the same side as facial drooping, is a serious sign of stroke. Have the person raise both arms — if one is harder to hold up or drifts downward on its own, that’s a sign of arm weakness.
SPEECH. Often, stroke victims exhibit slurred speech when asked to repeat simple phrases. They may also have difficulty in speaking at all or can be difficult to understand.
TIME. When you notice a potential stroke sign, check the time. It’s important to get a person who may have suffered from a stroke to the hospital as quickly as possible — even if you need to call 9-1-1 to accomplish this. Stroke symptoms can clear up spontaneously or they may linger long enough to show a doctor, but recovery depends on fast action.
If you recognize the signs of stroke in yourself or someone else, you should get help immediately. By memorizing the F.A.S.T. mnemonic, you’ll have no doubt if someone you know has suffered a stroke — or what to do about it.