Act F.A.S.T.: How to Identify the Signs of a Stroke

Posted: 5/5/2022 10:21 AM by Interim HealthCare

Would you be able to recognize the signs if you or a loved one was suffering from a stroke? If you recognized the symptoms, would you know what to do next?  


Unfortunately, 150,000 deaths each year in the United States are stroke-related—that’s 1 in every 19 deaths from all causes. Even more frightening, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and according to the CDC, it’s the leading cause of severe long-term disability. 


What causes a stroke?

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, happens one of two ways:

  • Ischemic stroke—when the blood supply to the brain is blocked
  • Hemorrhagic stroke—when a blood vessel in the brain bursts

A stroke causes brain tissue to die, leading to brain damage, disability, and death. That’s why you need to learn how to act F.A.S.T. in the event of a stroke. 


Remember to act F.A.S.T.: Know the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

An easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke and how you should respond is by knowing the acronym F.A.S.T.:

  • F = Face drooping
    Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
  • A = Arm weakness
    Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S = Speech difficulty
    Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
  • T = Time to call 9-1-1
    If the person shows any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.

Other common signs of stroke include:

  • Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden numbness of the face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding others

What should you do if you or someone you love has a stroke?

If you think that you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency, and stroke treatment and outcomes depend on how fast you get to the hospital and the type of stroke you’ve had recently. 


When transported by ambulance, first responders may be able to start your treatment right away and can alert the hospital that a stroke patient is on the way. This notification gives the hospital’s medical team time to prepare equipment and medicines you may need.


How is stroke diagnosed?

To diagnose a stroke, your doctor may perform several brain imaging tests, including the following:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Tests of the brain’s electrical activity
  • Blood flow tests

Can a stroke be prevented?

Experts say around 80% of strokes are preventable. High blood pressure is the most treatable risk factor for stroke. Preventing, diagnosing, and controlling your blood pressure through lifestyle changes and medication is critical to reducing your risk of stroke.


There are several steps you can take to reduce your risk for stroke:

  • Eat a healthy diet low in sodium with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be physically active
  • Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Prevent or manage your other health conditions, especially high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity

The CDC’s “Start Small, Live Big” campaign teaches you how to prevent a stroke and other steps you can take to live a heart-healthy life. The initiative encourages adults 55 and older to get back on track with the small steps—like scheduling their medical appointments, getting active, and eating healthy. If you have been told you’re at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, talk with your doctor right away about the steps you should take to decrease your risk of a stroke and other cardiac events.