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
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.