What does F.A.S.T. mean? Knowing the answer could save a life

When the blood supply to the brain is cut off, brain cells die. That’s called a stroke, and it can cause permanent disability or death within minutes.

When signs of a stroke appear, every second counts. Symptoms include sudden numbness of the face or limbs, confusion, difficulty with speech or cognition, visual disturbances, trouble walking, loss of balance, and severe headache. Although the majority of strokes occur in people aged 65 or older, they can and do occur any age.

If you suspect someone is showing signs of a stroke, act FAST:

  • F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A = ARM Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S = SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
  • T = TIME If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and there are some important things you should know.

  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of long-term disability.
  • The risk of stroke is higher in women than in men; higher in African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islander than in Whites; in people over age 55; if there is a family history of stroke; if there is a history of migraines; in people with high blood pressure; and for people with disabilities.
  • Stroke will cost the U.S. an estimated $73.6 billion in 2010.

Stroke does not always lead to disability or death, but getting to the hospital as quickly as possible is crucial. Treatment in the first three hours after symptoms begin decreases the potential for long-term disability.

Many contributing factors to stroke such as age, gender, and genetics are unavoidable. Some risk factors come from behaviors we can control, such as smoking and abuse of alcohol and drugs. Controlling weight and blood pressure also improve our odds.

A TIA is a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke that does no lasting damage. Not to be taken lightly, a TIA is considered a warning stroke and is cause to seriously evaluate risk factors that can be controlled.

Be your family’s own best health advocate — learn the signs and symptoms of stroke — and act F.A.S.T.

A public service announcement from the American Stroke Association:

For more information:

Related Reading on Care2:

Photo: Womenshealth.gov


Elisa F.
Elisa F4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat8 years ago


Dianne D.
Dianne D8 years ago

Good information and easy to remember.

Doris Mason
Past Member 8 years ago

This was a good reminder

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann8 years ago

Thanks for the information. Aged 83, I may need it sometime!

gail d.
gail dair8 years ago

thanks for post

Kristen R.
Kristen R8 years ago

Wow, great advice. Thanks for sharing!

Penelope Ryan
Penelope Ryan8 years ago

Excellant info to teach everyone....

Bee Hive Lady
Fiona Ogilvie8 years ago

My blood pressure is finally under control after the doctor doubled the dosage. Stroke is so common in my family, I feel that anything stroke related should be reported to the doctor quickly. Thank you for the information about TIA's. I have never heard of that before but I will report it to the doctor if it happens.

Ron Stephen
Ron Stephen8 years ago

FAST misses out on one of the most important tests - sticking out the tongue to see if it is bent to one side. To identify strokes I tend to use my own acronym of the word itself:

Smile - is it bent? crooked? quivering? not up?
Talk - is it slurred? thick? understandable?
Reach - up with both arms - are they up and even?
Out - stick out the tongue - is it bent to one side
Keen - are they aware of where? who? when?
Emergency if anyone fails any of the above tests

The K is a little weak so if anyone has a better acronym please let me know.